Urgent measures are needed to ensure that short-term adverse effects
of higher food prices do not impact even more alarmingly on the
very poor, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said today.
Addressing the first Global Agro-Industries Forum in New
Delhi, along with the heads of UNIDO and IFAD, Dr Diouf highlighted
the important role that agro-industry had to play in overcoming
“World food prices have risen 45 percent in the last nine
months and there are serious shortages of rice, wheat and maize,” Dr
A combination of factors, including reduced production due to
climate change, historically low levels of stocks, higher consumption
of meat and dairy products in emerging economies, increased demand
for biofuels production and the higher cost of energy and transport
have led to surges in food prices.
UNIDO’s Director-General, Kandeh K. Yumkella, said: “Climate
change will impose great stresses on the world’s ability
to feed ever growing populations. This challenge brings new threats
to arable land areas, livestock rearing and fisheries through droughts,
water shortages and pollution of land, air and sea. It is, after
all, agricultural and livestock production that provide the raw
materials that are basic to human existence – especially
The President of IFAD, Lennart Båge, told the conference
that in recent years, a number of developing countries have become
net importers of food. In countries from Bangladesh to Zambia,
nearly 40 per cent of the population was undernourished. “The
explosive and rapid rise of food prices is worsening their situation,” Båge
“With greater investment in agriculture and rural development,
the world’s 400 million smallholders could mobilize their
under-utilized potential, not only to improve their own nutrition
and incomes but to enhance national food security and overall economic
growth,” the IFAD President said.
Potential of agro-industry
Dr Diouf said: “It is essential to increase agricultural
investment in water control and infrastructure and to facilitate
small farmer access to inputs, so they can raise their productivity.” He
stressed the importance of effective marketing and processing systems
for agricultural products.
“Agro-industry helps preserve foodstuffs, add value and
reduce post-harvest losses; it enables products to travel longer
distances, including to the rapidly expanding cities,” he
noted. “For its part, agro-industry generates demand for
agricultural products and holds vast potential for off-farm rural
employment. It also adds significant value to farm production,
whether for domestic or export markets.”
The Global Agro-Industries Forum, being held from April 8-11,
has attracted over 500 participants from 120 countries. Both government
and private sectors are represented and there are also participants
from NGOs and farmer organizations.
The Agency Heads warned that the benefits of agro-industrial development
might not be universally shared, as small agricultural enterprises
are facing difficulties in some countries. Customs tariffs, non-tariff
barriers, standards and certification requirements, and export
volumes demanded constitute major impediments for many small exporters.
Urbanization, rising incomes and women joining the labour market
in many countries have boosted demand for convenience food. Worldwide,
processed food and beverages now account for 80 percent of total
food and drink sales, which rose 57 percent between 2001 and 2007.
Partly in response to this trend, there has been a rapid expansion
of supermarkets in many countries, notably in Latin America and
FAO, in partnership with the other agencies and NGOs, is working
to establish solid links between small farmers and buyers, by grouping
and organizing farmers into producer associations and cooperatives.
Dr Yumkella said that for the UN system and its development partners
the challenge was to cooperate: to help agro-industrial enterprises
to grow and flourish; to provide jobs and create wealth; and, thus
to foster sustainable economic and human development.
The New Delhi Forum is jointly organized by FAO, the United Nations
Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the International
Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in close collaboration
with the Government of India.
FAO is also organizing a High-Level Conference on “World
Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy” at
its headquarters in Rome from 3 to 5 June 2008, thus offering a
forum for Heads of State and Government to discuss the pressing
challenges facing global food security and to adopt required actions
to deal with the situation.
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