From the podium

From the podium

Mr Rolf W. Boehnke (Managing Director, Common Fund for Commodities - CFC)

It is a great honour for the Common Fund for Commodities to address this august meeting. The World food Summit is held against the background of the agreed Millennium Development Goal to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. The Summit this year is held when we are halfway to the year 2015 and this leads to an assessment of where the international community stands in achieving these targets.

The Common Fund for Commodities, which is an intergovernmental institution established by the United Nations, strives to alleviate poverty through commodity development measures. The backdrop of the work of the Common Fund is the fact that about one billion people in developing countries depend on export commodities for a substantial part of their livelihood. Indeed, agricultural commodities are not only the source of food production but equally a major economic asset on which the majority of the population in developing countries depends for employment and income.

High price volatility and a consistent trend of declining real prices of main non-oil commodities brought increasing uncertainty and declining incomes to most agriculture producers, especially the smallholders. In addition, large government subsidies in high-income countries, at around US$ 327 billion in the year 2000 alone, and tariff and non-tariff barriers led to distortions in international trade, in particular in the field of agriculture, which again mainly affected developing countries.

Today it is widely accepted that the world as a whole has the potential of increasing food production to meet the growth of demand, as demonstrated by higher yields and development of disease-resistant varieties. However, the fact that hunger persists in many countries at a time when global food production has increased demonstrates the complexity of the problem.

As stated by Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize laureate for economics, the real problem of poverty lies with the concept of "food entitlements" so that hunger is a function of people's ability to acquire food. The problem of hunger therefore appears to be one of access to food and less of overall food availability.

The Common Fund for Commodities, in striving to alleviate poverty, operates under the novel approach of commodity focus which entails addressing the more general problems of particular commodities affecting producers in several countries, especially the Least Developed Countries and the poorer strata of the population. In this way, beneficiaries in a large geographical area can be reached by each project. The measures supported by the Common Fund range from research and development, productivity improvements, new products and marketing, horizontal and vertical diversification, assistance in the transition to liberalized markets, to mitigation of price risks.

The Common Fund for Commodities works on many fronts to meet the current challenges facing commodity producers and food security. We look forward to strengthening our cooperation in these fields with FAO with which we have established a very close cooperation. We hope by this to ensure that we can reach the Millennium Goal in the year 2015.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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