His Excellency Jim Sutton (Minister for Agriculture and for Trade Negotiations of New Zealand) ROUND TABLE No. 1
The No. 1 Roundtable discussion this morning was attended by delegations from 36 Member Countries. The Roundtable was chaired by the Distinguished Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Colombia and myself. Twenty-seven very constructive and interesting interventions were made. We heard reports of notable progress in some regions and countries but not enough to prevent us falling behind the World Food Summit targets overall.
There was general agreement that political will has been accurately identified by FAO as the critical deficiency. Official development assistance levels are below target. That said, it was acknowledged that ODI was effective when applied. The devastating effect of war and civil unrest was highlighted as being fundamentally incompatible with food security. Enough food is produced globally to feed the world, as witnessed by falling commodity prices. However, distribution and markets that are disfunctional were targeted as areas needing more attention. Delays in the implementation of projects due to excessive bureaucracy was cited as a possible reason for not reaching targets. On the positive side of this, though, was the hope that as projects in their infancy come into effect, we may make better progress towards the World Food Summit: five years later targets.
Trade and trade liberalization were common themes for the vast majority of speakers. There were a couple of dissensions along the lines of liberalization has not delivered what it promised. This could, however, be because to a large degree liberalization in agriculture trade has not really occurred.
Concern was expressed about the possible use of sanitary and phytosanitary measures as barriers to trade. The need for capacity building to create even standards and to meet SPS requirements was emphasized. A particular source of concern and frustration was the lack of policy coherence, evident in the policies of rich nations, which effectively took away through trade barriers on agriculture what they gave with ODI and technical capacity building. It was noted that OECD countries provide a billion dollars a day in support to their own agriculture sector, six times more than all official development assistance.
Delegates focused on some crucial elements needed to develop their agricultural sectors, these included: adequate infrastructure, improved technology including producing more nutritious crop varieties, agricultural research, science and technology, gender equality given the substantial role women play in agricultural production, education, again especially for girls; in some situations debt forgiveness.
Delegates stressed the value of self-self cooperation, stable macro-economic parameters, rural democracy, rule of law, sound land policies and efficient markets. Additionally, the need to recognize special access for specialized agricultural exports from net food importing countries.
Another key element to come through was that not all developing countries are the same. Local solutions are needed for local problems; it was recognized that it will take a long time to move from subsistence to commercial agriculture but that this is a critical step to eliminate hunger and poverty.
Finally, we were reminded that food sufficiency is not enough. Balanced nutritious diets for all remains the ultimate goal.
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