From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Darjaa Nasanjargal (Minister for Food and Agriculture of Mongolia)

Mr Director-General, Mr Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure and a privilege to have the opportunity to address the World Food Summit. Since 1996, when the World Food Summit was held, the Government of Mongolia has implemented a policy consistent with principles and ideas of the Rome Declaration on Food Security and has taken appropriate measures with the kind assistance of donor countries and the international community.

Over 70 countries have worked on developing their strategic documents on poverty alleviation; Mongolia was the 38th country to join this initiative. In an effort to reduce the level of poverty, the Government of Mongolia together with the World Bank has implemented the National Programme on Poverty Alleviation during 1994-2000. In 2001 a new national programme entitled Increasing Household Livelihoods has been launched. Under the framework of this programme 13 000 small projects, worth about US$15.5 million, have been started in remote rural areas and have resulted in permanent jobs for 30 percent of poor families and increase in income.

The economy and the standard of living of our population depend heavily on agriculture. The agricultural sector is the core economic sector in the country and accounts for 35 percent of GDP and one/fourth of total export. Some 49 percent of the Mongolian labour force is involved and works in this sector. In 1990 the agricultural raw materials procurement system started to break down and the production decreased sharply. However, since 2001 the food production, and the agricultural processing in particular, has started to increase steadily. In line with the framework of macro-economic policy and in an effort to keep the sustainable increase in reduction, we need to further develop infrastructure, improve access to banking and financial services, and expand food security and safety in rural areas.

The Government of Mongolia has been implementing specific programmes and projects on food supply and nutrition for the population in all phases of the country's development. It has approved the "Food Law" and other associated legislations to create a control structure for its enforcement and to provide the population with quality food, assured hygiene and safe conditions at food production, service and consumption levels. The National Programme entitled Improvement of Food Supply and Nutrition for Mongolian Population was implemented during 1994-2000. Positive results have been achieved in changing the composition and the volume of food intake and food varieties. The average calorie intake per person has increased from 1963 calories in 1993 to 2462 calories in 2000.

However, the economic crisis, poverty, frequent climatic fluctuations related to drought and extreme winter conditions (dzud), and insufficient assessment of the situation during the 1994 Programme preparation resulted in only partly meeting the objectives of this Programme.

Given many factors such as the Government of Mongolia's pledge to follow the recommendations of the Rome Declaration of 1996 and directions of FAO and WHO to implement the Plan of Action; the present situation on the food security and nutrition status of Mongolians; the country's concepts, policy, and directions on the food supply for the population; protection and fighting measures against hunger; micronutrient deficiency; the Government of Mongolia developed and approved the National Plan of Action for Food Security, Safety and Nutrition in October 2001. The goals and concepts related to food safety and nutrition, which have international acceptance and endorsement, are included in the National Plan, and are directed to supplying the population with high quality and safe food, which is available and affordable to all, and provides the essential nutrient requirements to promote and protect the health and lifestyle of the people. The strengthening of food control system, capacity building, improving of the population's awareness and knowledge on food security issues, implementing new technologies that meet the international standards, and providing support to expand production are all among the goals included in the Programme.

The main policy of the Government of Mongolia in the agricultural sector is to provide a sustainable development of animal husbandry and steady revitalization of crop production in order to create jobs in rural areas, alleviate poverty and increase income for rural households. The main objectives of the policy for animal husbandry are improvements in the quality and health of animals, as well as creating a protection structure from natural disasters. These objectives should help to increase the production and supply of good quality products of animal origin and encourage greater export of Mongolian raw and processed products.

During the transition from command economy to market oriented economy, the function and structure of veterinary and animal breeding services broke down. The low level of fodder preparation, lack of livestock enclosures, and insufficient water supply were the causes for lowering of animal productivity and growth of various animal diseases and the death of many animals. At present, 97.2 percent of livestock is privatized.

One of indicators determining the living standard for rural people is the number of animals they possess. The livestock census of last year shows that 67.5 percent possessed less than 100 heads of animals, 20 percent had between 101-200 heads of animals. That is an average 141 heads per rural household.

In our country the rural household with less than 200 heads of animals is considered to be a household under the poverty line. The family income depends on the kind of livestock in possession and the distance to the nearest access to the market.

The policy for crop production is to develop and implement technology and techniques that are harmless to nature, environment and humans. This policy also aims to reach self-sufficiency in wheat, potato, vegetables and animal fodder while producing ecologically pure products for export and provide favourable conditions for that.

Mongolia is, nevertheless, located in the high mountainous region of Central Asia and has comparatively favourable conditions of solar energy sources, enough land for cultivation with reasonably fertile soil, which has been used for relatively few years. Other advantages in running a crop production in our country are adapted technology and adequate experience in growing cereals, potatoes and other vegetables to meet the country's demands, as well as skilled farmers and technicians.

As a consequence of unfavourable weather conditions of recent years, the crop production sector has suffered strongly. The poor quality of seed and soil treatments, as well as the financial constraints of crop entities and farms were also the causes for consecutive losses of harvest. Such constraints and difficulties resulted in decline of the crop production to the level of 1960s. Therefore, our country has to import 70 percent of flour and 30 to 50 percent of potato and other vegetables to meet the basic annual requirements.

Positive changes have also been recognized in the crop sector, according to the Government statistics. Furthermore, the objectives of introducing up-to-date technology of soil conservation, renovating seeds, developing irrigated cultivation, enhancing production input supply, and growing crop for fodder will be implemented.

Under the framework of Land reform, the preparation work for creating a legal environment for land-ownership and possession for the Mongolian citizens and improving the economic efficiency of land use have been completed. I am pleased to inform the delegates that Mongolia adopted the Law on land ownership just a few days ago, on 7 June 2002 after long discussions and debates among the politicians, farmers, researchers and citizens.

The issues on providing support for cooperatives movement and intensifying the integrated livestock and crop production are also of particular interest to the Government of Mongolia.

The agricultural production in our country is directly dependent on natural environment and climatic conditions. The natural disasters known as dzud and drought, affected the country for the last three consecutive years causing deaths of approximately 10.3 million heads of livestock and damaged significantly the country's economy. More than 10 000 herding families have joined the ranks of the poor. On several occasions, people have lost their lives. To relieve the consequences and provide preparedness for future natural disasters, the Government has launched the implementation of a National programme Livestock Protection from Drought and Dzud Disasters."

As a consequence of global warming, the tendency for increased and repeated disaster occurrences has been recognized in our country. The intensive drying-up and desertification, degradation of pasture and arable land and the damage from the last five years of 6.4 million hectares of forest by the forest fires worsened the social-economic development of the country. To overcome these obstacles, the donor countries, international organizations and communities have supported Mongolia with more than US$300 million in the form of loans and grant aids in the year 2001.

The projects initiated and approved by FAO such as Renovation of technologies in crop production sector, Dzud damage Relief, Damage in Animal Husbandry Sector, and Prevention of Forest Fire have played a significant role in the increase of agricultural production and relief of consequences of the Dzud disaster.

I would like to take this opportunity and, on behalf of the Government of Mongolia, express our deep and heart felt appreciation to countries and organizations, which provide humanitarian aid, and the necessary support to Mongolian people during the harsh and difficult periods.

In order to continue the effective implementation of the commitments of the Rome Declaration on Food Security, the Plan of Action, and other related documents and decisions of this was: five years later, the Government of Mongolia will take nationwide measures directed to providing good security for all, poverty alleviation, and active collaboration with other countries and international organizations.

Thank you for your attention.

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