From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Tsutomu Takebe (Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan)

Mr Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am very delighted to attend the World Food Summit: five years later and to have the opportunity to express my views to all of you as a representative of Japan.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Dr Diouf, the Director-General of FAO, and the FAO Secretariat for organizing this Summit, as well as to our host, the Government of Italy.

Mr Chairman, in 1996, the leaders of nations gathered in Italy for the World Food Summit in order to recognize and reconfirm the importance of food and agricultural issues toward the Twenty-first Century. They also discussed ways to eradicate famine and malnutrition and how to achieve world food security.

Five and a half years have passed since the Summit was held, and I am deeply concerned by the fact that about 800 million people worldwide still continue to suffer from malnutrition.

In order to improve our situation, we believe it is of vital importance that the donor countries and international organizations such as FAO continue to work together while developing countries make their own effort, and all try to tackle the problem of malnutrition and food shortage together.

From this perspective, it is extremely significant to reconfirm the status regarding both the reinforcement of political intention to fight famine from various countries as well as the mobilization of the resources at this Summit five years later.

Mr Chairman, in order to eradicate the problems of famine and malnutrition, it is most important for each government to fully recognize the role of agriculture. About three-quarters of the population in poverty in developing countries and countries in transition live in rural areas. In view of alleviating poverty in these countries, agriculture plays an important role to ensure basic food for subsistence, while providing opportunities to increase income for farmers and employment for the poor. In addition, agriculture has various functions such as food security, land conservation, fostering water resources and preservation of the natural environment. Such roles and functions of agriculture can only be realized with the development of sustainable agriculture and rural development.

I believe that the Twenty-first Century should be the era when the various nations and regions of international society coexist and mutually respect each country's values based on their specific historical and cultural backgrounds. Agriculture is the foundation of society in every country and provides a variety of functions that are beneficial to society. As there are differences in the natural conditions and the historical backgrounds from one country to another, the diversity and coexistence of agriculture among various countries need to be preserved. In this regard, based upon the fundamental philosophy of coexistence of diversity of agriculture, we believe that it is necessary to establish trade rules that fully take into account non-trade concerns on agriculture in the WTO agricultural negotiations.

Considering the possibility of tight international food supply in the future, as well as vulnerable economic situations and unstable social conditions in developing countries, it is important to ensure food security based on sustainable domestic production in each country, while appropriately combining imports and stockholding.

Japan has proposed a framework for international food stockholding to WTO, aimed at strengthening support schemes for food in developing countries through alleviating temporary and large-scale food shortage problems caused by natural or manmade disasters. The proposed scheme would ensure the international food stockholding of basic foodstuffs and contribute to the more effective implementation of food aid. In addition, our country has been engaged in the study on East Asian Rice Reserve System through collaborations with ASEAN countries as a concrete step forward in realizing this proposal. The results of this study will be a topic for discussion at the upcoming meeting of ASEAN Agriculture Ministers and the Ministers of the three countries, Japan, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea, this October. We hope that the participating countries will be able to reach a consensus on the new management system of rice stockholding in East Asia in the meeting.

At the high-level ministerial segment of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) held March 2002, the role that sustainable forest management plays to eradicate poverty and to achieve sustainable development was underscored. In addition, at this ministerial segment, the Ministers responsible for forests in their countries adopted the message to the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) that they invite the WSSD to advance sustainable forest management as a critical means to eradicate poverty, improve food security and access to safe drinking water.

We believe that international society must continue to address problems that hinder efforts toward sustainable forest management, including illegal logging. In regard to these areas, Japan has been promoting not only bilateral cooperation but also multilateral cooperation such as through the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).

As for fisheries, it is important to reduce over-fishing, eradicate illegal fishing and manage marine ecosystems synthetically. Equally important is the promotion of sustainable use and conservation of marine living resources, because marine products play a critical role in supplying nutrition for citizens. It is necessary to manage and develop fisheries with a careful consideration of the role that sustainable fisheries play in the guarantee of food security and in the reduction of poverty.

Mr Chairman, since our entry into the Colombo Plan in 1954, Japan has donated a total of approximately US$ 200 billion to Official Development Assistance (ODA) until 2000 and has steadily continued to realize the follow-up of the World Food Summit in spite of the current difficult economic and fiscal situation. To give an example, we have been implementing the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) since 2000 in four Asian countries, including as Indonesia and Laos, with five-year commitments.

In addition, as new collaborative activities with FAO, we have decided to undertake the following: a project concerning biotechnology in Asia; a project for the WTO related to agricultural capacity building; and a project to improve information systems concerning food security in each ASEAN Member Nation and observe the situation on food security. We hope to contribute to the reduction of the number of people suffering from malnutrition through these projects.

In addition, as the world's largest net importer of agricultural products, Japan has been actively contributing towards the importation of agricultural products from developing countries.

In addition, these days, consumers and civil society are showing growing concern over food safety and quality and food labelling. Under such circumstances, Japan has been taking various actions in order to ensure food safety, since the outbreak of BSE which occurred last year. We would like to implement positive cooperation in this field, mainly with Asian countries, based upon lessons learned through such experiences.

Since 1993, Japan has been organizing the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), whose objective is to implement sustainable development in Africa. In 2003, TICAD III will take place in Japan in which various leaders of African countries will participate. In addition, both at the G8 Summit and the Johannesburg Summit (World Summit on Sustainable Development – WSSD) this year, African development will be an important theme.

Within this context, Japan has been promoting agricultural aid to Africa, making the most of its experience in improving food products in Asia. As a part of such efforts, we have been involved in experimental research of New Rice for Africa (NERICA) and our research has been spotlighted as a contributor to the improvement of famine in Africa. We plan to continue our active aid toward Africa as exemplified by the case of NERICA.

In addition, since 2000 we began implementing aid with FAO, applying the Human Security Fund and other funds in order to achieve the guarantee of food security in African countries, where the situation of malnutrition is extremely severe.

Furthermore, we have been aggressively supporting water resource development of developing countries for an increase in food production. On the other hand, given the limited water resources, effective control of water resources is in demand. In order to approach these issues, the third World Water Forum will be held in March 2003 in Japan. In conjunction with it, the Meeting of Ministers of Agriculture will be held under the co-organization of Japan and FAO.

Finally, I would like to stress the significance and urgency of the collaborative effort of each country to achieve the goal of reducing the number of undernourished people to half its present level no later than 2015, as agreed at the World Food Summit in 1996. Japan will aggressively tackle the issue of malnutrition, together with other countries world-wide.

I would like to thank you very much for your attention.

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