Bureau régionales de la FAO pour le Proche-Orient et l’Afrique du Nord

Annual Regional Workshop of the International Plant Protection Convention

Ensuring Food Safety Requires Innovation for Plant and Vegetable Health

Tunis, August 1-4, 2022: The FAO Regional Office for the Near East and North Africa, in collaboration with the Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the Organization for the Protection of Plants in the Near East (NEPPO), is organizing a regional workshop for the Middle East and North Africa region. The event in Tunis, in hybrid format, is held every year. The Convention (IPPC) helps Member States improve and modernize their plant protection programs while strengthening and encouraging international and regional cooperation. Several experts, including official representatives from Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Lebanon, Morocco, Mauritania, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Qatar, Sudan, Kuwait, and Tunisia, resume direct exchanges this year after two years of virtual exchanges due to constraints imposed by the pandemic. 

During four days, this exceptional forum will allow participants to exchange updated information on the prospects for coordination and collaboration between the countries of the NENA region. The work will report on the results of technical consultations on International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs), the updates of the activities of the Standards Committee and of the Implementation and Capacity Building Committee, and a review of comments received from states of the region on the draft standards and other documents of the Convention. A focus will be made on current projects, as well as a study of international measures and standards relating to the protection of plants and biodiversity in countries and on how to facilitate trade. 

In his opening address, Mr. Elyes Hamza, Minister of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries, recalled the extent of the harmful consequences of diseases and the circulation of pests, parasites, viruses, insects and fungi on plants and vegetables in the countries of the NENA region. Based on global data from FAO, he says that the losses per year on agricultural products are around 40%. The example of fire blight, which raged in Tunisia on the production of arboriculture, is a perfect illustration of this. Following the unprecedented contamination in 2012, cultivable areas were reduced by 61%, from 8,000 hectares to 3,100 hectares.

For his part, Dr Abdelhakim El Waer, Assistant General Director of the FAO and Regional Coordinator of the FAO for the Near East and North Africa, recalled that "the application and respect of international phytosanitary standards help the countries of the region to improve access for their agricultural exports to world markets and to gain entry into the most competitive markets of Europe, Asia and America. In addition to threats to human health, the continued prevalence of plant pests and diseases poses a serious threat to food security. The damage to agriculture exacerbates the growing problem of world hunger and threatens the means of rural subsistence.” 

Today, and in different countries represented in this regional workshop, the presence of the "red weevil", which threatens palm trees, the fall armyworm, which attacks cereals and mainly maize, the fourth tropical strain of "fusarium", which causes banana wilt disease, the bacterium "Xylella fastidoisa", which destroys olive trees, and other plant pests will be at the heart of the work of the experts present in Tunisia. 

Nothing less than the future of agricultural development and the guarantee of food security in these countries are at stake.