Through the Hand-in-Hand initiative, the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme and other actions, FAO can help ensure well-functioning global food markets, promote responsible investments, and reduce food loss and waste, among other areas
On 12 September 2020 the FAO Director-General QU Dongyu participated in the G20's Agriculture and Water Ministers meeting, hosted virtually by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and presented several priority areas in which FAO can support G20 countries and the international community to strengthen agrifood systems and recover from the impacts of COVID-19.
In his address to the meeting, QU highlighted that measures and joint efforts, taken so far by countries and international organizations, have allowed global food value chains to continue to function well amid the pandemic. He also noted that, according to FAO estimates, the expected global cereal output for 2020 still stands at 2 765 million tonnes, an all-time high and 58 million tonnes above the 2019 outturn. That owned to enabling policies, innovation (new cultivars, agri-inputs and marketing channels) and investment and hard work by millions of farmers.
Despite the positive current scenario, the Director-General called for countries to continue to be vigilant: "Global food markets are well supplied. However, as the global economy struggles to recover, access to food will be negatively affected by income reductions and loss of jobs. We must ensure that trade continues to flow smoothly to contribute to food security and nutrition globally," he said, noting that the 2020 edition of FAO's flagship report The State of Agricultural Commodity Markets, to be launched soon, will support the discussion on how markets and value chains can contribute to food security and growth.
From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, FAO has been orienting countries to be sure that health and recovery measures do not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruption to global food supply chains. This is also one of the seven priorities of FAO COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme, which aims to facilitate and accelerate food and agricultural global and intra-regional trade during the pandemic and beyond.
In his intervention, the Director-General also referred to the important contributions of the Agriculture Market Information System (AMIS) to enhance market information food market transparency and thanked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the contribution of $ 1 million to the initiative. AMIS is hosted by FAO and was established in 2011 at the request of the G20 to address the problem of extreme food price volatility.
Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems
QU also indicated that FAO's latest assessment suggested that the pandemic could add up to 132 million people to the ranks of undernourished in the world in 2020 (almost 690 million people were estimated to have been undernourished in 2019). In this context, he called for countries to strengthen efforts to promote responsible investment in agriculture and commended the adoption by the G20 of the Riyadh Statement to Enhance Implementation of Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (RIAFS).
The G20 Riyadh Statement calls for the implementation of international instruments that guide public and private investments in agriculture in a way to increase sustainable productivity, raise incomes, foster broader economic growth and create job opportunities, particularly to the benefit of smallholders and family farmers.
"We will support G20 members and FAO members as a whole with our programmes on the CFS Principles for Responsible Investment, the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, and the OECD-FAO Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains," the Director-General said, referring to instruments adopted within the scope of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS).
Food Loss and Waste
Food loss and waste was also high on the agenda of the ministerial meeting, with countries calling for improved awareness, novel practices and innovative approaches. During the meeting, the FAO Director-General highlighted that "the development of the FAO baseline on food loss and waste will contribute substantially to measuring progress and making a change," referring to the 2019 edition of State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report.
He also noted the strong collaboration between FAO and the G20 on the Technical Platform on the Measurement and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste, and invited countries to join the observance of the first International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste on 29 September.
Other key issues: water, transboundary pests and diseases, and AMR
The meeting also gave prominence to water. The FAO Director-General concurred with the priority given to the issue, since the impacts of climate change are expected to exacerbate the water availability and flooding across regions. He commended the G20's intention to work on sustainable water management and said that FAO stands ready to contribute, drawing on its accelerator framework on water scarcity and digital data capacity. QU noted that SOFA 2020, to be launched next month, will focus on water and agriculture. "With agriculture using 70 percent of global freshwater withdrawals, this is a central issue for us," he concluded.
"We should address all risks, including those arising from transboundary plant and animal pests and diseases. FAO is committed to the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and to the joint FAO/OIE Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases."
QU also mentioned FAO's work on antimicrobial resistance.
"The issue of antimicrobial resistance requires ample attention. We should remain committed against the inappropriate use of antimicrobial agents in agriculture and food systems globally. And I would like to thank you for your support to the Tripartite Plus agencies," the Director-General said, referring to the collaboration between FAO, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in taking collective action to minimize the emergence and spread of AMR.
FAO is committed and ready to continue working with our members on agri-food transformation by 4 betters namely better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for a better world.