His Excellency Jeronimas Kraujelis (Minister for Agriculture of the Republic of Lithuania)
Your Majesties, Your Excellencies the Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Distinguished Ministers, Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Agriculture is a distinctive, composite and complex field that affects every single one of us. First of all, it supplies us with food, provides rural residents with jobs, preserves nature and minimizes the impact on the environment.
The conditions of Lithuania are favourable for the development of agriculture. The country has a favourable geographical location, and sufficient fertile land resources. Its climatic conditions are favourable for the development of the milk and meat industries, for the cultivation of grain, potatoes, vegetables, fruit, linen, rape sugar beets and other plants and animals typical of its latitude. In addition, 18 milk processing enterprises and 3 meat processing enterprises have meet European standards and allow us to export our products to EU countries.
Sufficient water resources provide favourable conditions for the development of fisheries. The country's favourable geographical location coupled with seaport access and transportation facilities provide great opportunities for the country to engage in the fish trade industry locally, as well as internationally.
The rapid development of relations based on private property changed production systems and lifestyles in general. The transition period brought to the surface the weaknesses of our agricultural sector.
Despite the fact that many high-quality are produced in the country, difference in the pace of change have resulted in different standards of living in urban and rural areas, and among the different social strata.
The Government of Lithuania has developed the Strategy of Poverty Diminution and a program for its implementation. The Government has made the following provisions in order to reduce disparities between rural and urban populations:
• provision of investment support to farms engaged in alternative economic activities and seeking to generate additional income;
• support to rural tourism;
• support for organic farming and direct payments for certified land areas;
• restructuring and modernization of farms;
• continuing education for young farmers.
The Government has also sought to bring national legislation into line with European norms regarding animal and plant safety standards, and food quality. The Laws on Product Safety and on Food have been adopted in Lithuania. Respective secondary legislation has been drafted and approved in order to adhere to European Standards.
In 2000, market reform, including food control monitoring, took place in Lithuania. The main objective of the reform was to create a quality control system that provides for the effective monitoring of the market in all stages of production - "from soil to table". In addition, the Food Safety Strategy that was developed and approved by the Minister of Agriculture in 2001 is presently being implemented.
Examination of food products takes place at a certified laboratory. Veterinary control is carried out at 18 frontier control posts. An additional 11 frontier control posts are envisaged to comply with the requirements of the EU by the year 2004. Great importance is being attached to the introduction and development of veterinary information systems (ANIMO, SHIFT, ADNS, livestock identification and registration) as well as veterinary and food control databases that comply with EU requirements. Lithuania has introduced the system of identification of cattle, sheep and goats.
This year 3 missions of European experts have already visited Lithuania. Apart from comments and proposals contained in their conclusions, the experts also emphasised the progress made by the country in the field of agriculture and production of food products.
With the view to strengthen consumer confidence in food products, it is necessary to create a transparency regarding food safety and nutrition in all countries. It is important that the threat to human health is assessed on the basis of scientific evidence. It is necessary to carry out open consultations with the participation of all the parties concerned.
It is not enough to merely identify the threat. It is also necessary to properly assess it and to take preventive measures and exchange information with counterparts regarding unsafe products. It is therefore very important for Lithuania to join the EU Information System of Dangerous and Unsafe Products (RAPEX).
Food safety has no borders. All countries are partners in this field, and the problems of one country are shared by all.
Therefore, in closing, I would like to propose that support be provided for the restructuring and modernization of the agricultural and food sectors in candidate states, and that conditions be created for the development of competitive production sectors that ensure the supply of safe food to people.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Direct General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Mr Jacques Diouf and all the organisers who have arranged the World Food Summit: five years later. I believe that the expressed proposals and resolutions taken at the Summit will advance the alleviation of poverty, hunger and food safety problems of vital importance.
Distinguished Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you very much for you kind attention.
* Inserted upon request.
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