From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Vince Henderson (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and the Environment of the Commonwealth of Dominica)

Mr Chairman, I would like to congratulate you and the Vice-chairs for the excellent job you have done thus far in presiding over this important Summit.

My Government would like to join in thanking the Director-General of FAO for his foresight, vision and initiative in the vital area of food security and for his leadership and commitment in hosting this crucial World Food Summit to call the world's attention to, and mobilize our collective will and energies towards addressing the problem of food security and agricultural and rural development.

We would also like to extend our deepest gratitude to the Government and people of Italy for their hospitality over the past few days.

It was right here, in this historic city of Rome in November 1996, that world leaders of 186 countries met and committed themselves to the common and national commitments of achieving food security for all. Specifically in that Rome Declaration they collectively resolved to halve the number of undernourished people by the year 2015. To achieve that goal, the leaders dew up and adopted a World Food Summit Plan of Action incorporating a coherent set of actions comprising production, trade and investment, technology, food health and safety, and institutional development including governance and human resource development.

The World Food Summit Plan of Action carries considerable potential for achieving its objectives: increasing food production and access for segments of the world population stricken by the plight of poverty and food insecurity. A good plan, as we all know, however, is only half of the solution. The plan must be effectively implemented.

The challenges facing the Small Island Developing States in achieving food security and building a more competitive agriculture have been amply and eloquently elaborated by previous speakers. These challenges have been aggravated by a lack of real understanding and appreciation by the donor community and the industrialized countries of the true nature and complexity of the limitations of these economies. Consequently, new trade regimes and related policies originating from the north have tended to widen the economic disparity and aggravate poverty and food insecurity for the less fortunate segments of the world population.

Mr Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I, therefore, call on the industrialized countries to give their full commitment to the attainment of the successful implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action.

The World Food Security Plan of Action carries great significance for Dominica and the Caribbean region as a whole. The Caribbean community, with the assistance of FAO, has responded with its own plans to expand food production in the region.

In Dominica, my Government is moving aggressively to expand domestic output of food crops, livestock, fishery and agro-processing; at the same time food imports, largely from the industrialized countries, have expanded quite significantly.

It is our aim in Dominica to both expand our capacity for production and consumption of food. We are sold on the idea that the food security issue means not only the ability to produce food, but also having the income to buy food produced both at home and from suppliers overseas. That broad view of the problem means that our approach involves programmes to increase output, income and jobs in the rural and agricultural sectors and in the economy as a whole.

The food situation in Dominica has been affected by a number of constraints. These have been frequent natural disasters (hurricane and drought) which have disrupted plans particularly in the agriculture sector. The change in the EU banana regime has hurt our export performance as well as general economic output in terms of job availability and incomes. At the same time, aid flows from our traditional sources have declined.

Dominicans, however, are a very resilient people and in spite of these setbacks we have seen a number of positive trends in outputs in food crops, livestock, fishery and agro-processing.

We are now embarking on far-reaching actions at economic stabilization and growth. These measures include particular measures for banana and general agricultural and economic development. Expansion in trade and investment, technology transfer and institutional development, including human resource development and regulatory reforms are significant targets of this programme.

In closing, I wish to express appreciation, on behalf of the Government and people of the Commonwealth of Dominica, for the support that FAO has provided to development of the agricultural sector and production of food in Dominica. FAO's technical cooperation activities have impacted on a number of critical aspects of Dominica's agriculture including production, marketing, post-harvest practices, technology transfer, extension and credit. We are particularly appreciative of the assistance to our small producers and small rural agribusiness. We, therefore, look forward to the opportunities to be created under the new FAO programme for greater technical cooperation, especially through South South cooperation in support of domestic food production.

We, therefore, pledge our continued support to FAO and its initiatives in the fight against hunger and food insecurity.

Thank you.

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