Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today, 16th October 2013, we mark yet another World Food Day — bearing cognizance to the 34th anniversary of the World Food Day Commemorations, and the 68th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1945.
For us in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it is a day to reflect and to consider what we can do to contribute to a positive global change in food production. The facts are startling: FAO’s most recent estimates indicate that globally, 842 million people — 12 per cent of the global population — were unable to meet their dietary energy requirements in 2011-13, down from 868 million reported for the 2010-12 period. Thus, around one in eight of the world’s citizens are likely to have suffered from chronic hunger, not having enough food for an active and healthy life. The vast majority of hungry citizens — 827 million — live in developing countries, where the prevalence of undernourishment is now estimated at 14.3 per cent.
While the estimated number of undernourished citizens has continued to decrease, the rate of progress appears insufficient to reach international goals for hunger reduction. There are two established targets against which progress in reducing hunger is assessed. One is the 1996
World Food Summit (WFS) target, which is to halve the number of hungry citizens; the other is the 2001 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) hunger target, which is to halve the proportion of hungry citizen in the total population. Both targets have 1990 as the starting year and 2015 as the target year.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has already met both targets. In June of this year, St. Vincent and the Grenadines gained recognition and received a prestigious award from the FAO for being among 38 countries that met the internationally-established targets set out in Millennium Development Goal Number One: “to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger”. We have achieved this target way ahead of the 2015 deadline.
In addition, St. Vincent and the Grenadines was among an additional 18 countries, that reached both MDG One and the more stringent WFS goal, having reduced by half the absolute number of undernourished citizens between 2000-2002 and 2012. This has been an outstanding achievement in the face of the global financial and economic crisis that we are continuing to face.
The FAO’s statistics show that undernourishment in St. Vincent and the Grenadines during the period 2000 to 2002 was 11 per cent of the population or about 12,000 persons. An assessment in 2012 showed that the level of undernourishment was 4.9 per cent or about 5,000 persons. This is a reduction of over 58 per cent in 2012 relative to the 2000/2002 period. In other words, undernourishment has been reduced by more than half.
World Food Day 2013 is about recognizing the worldwide problem of hunger. This year the theme for World Food Day is “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition”. The theme has been chosen to highlight and raise awareness of the problems worldwide and the solutions to food security and ridding the world of hunger. The day is also about raising awareness and calling for changes to our agriculture and food supply systems.
However, feeding the nation is not just about providing food to the world’s hungry and undernourished citizens, but is also about providing the means, through policy, for citizens to take part in the production of our own food.
Food Security concerns all of us, because it is about the earth’s resources, which we all share and use, and because food is vital for life. However, unsustainable models of development are degrading the natural environment, threatening ecosystems and biodiversity that will be needed for our future food supply. It is, therefore, our wish to continue to place the issue of food at the centre of our development agenda, and we have done so through various means.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines stands ready to reaffirm its commitment and support to ensuring that the basic right of every human being is achieved; the basic right to food. Our Government remains concerned over the extremely high dependence on imports to meet domestic and regional food requirements, which has placed St. Vincent and the Grenadines and our region in the category of Net Food Importing Developing Countries (NFIDCs). The issue of import substitution to facilitate an increase in local consumption is of first importance on the agenda of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation and Industry and will buttress our national work in public health and education.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Transformation, Forestry, Fisheries and Industry plays a critical role in ensuring agricultural production by means of promoting entrepreneurship and providing support to emerging and commercial farmers.
In this regard, the Ministry, through its various units, divisions and departments, has continued to implement measures to stimulate investment in the agricultural sector in order to support food production. These include the provision of support to farmers involved in the production of root crops, vegetables and fruits; support to livestock farmers; forestry conservation activities; and support for fisheries development. In doing so, the Ministry has been working in collaboration with cooperating institutions including the Taiwanese Technical Mission (TTM), Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Inter-American Institute for Co-operation and Agriculture, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the Association for the Conservation of threatened Parrots (ACTP) and Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM).
The Ministry of Agriculture is now rolling out the implementation of the Agricultural Modernization and Development Programme funded by the European Union under the Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM). In terms of strategic orientations, specific actions under the BAM shall address the following thematic areas with due consideration to the need for new approaches to public/private partnership in the agricultural sector: (a) food and nutrition security; (b) small-scale commercial farming/farm family agriculture; and (c) trans-boundary pests and diseases. More specifically, interventions under the BAM will focus mainly on increasing banana, livestock, fruit and vegetable production. In so doing, a number of cross-cutting issues will be addressed in support of the thematic areas.
The implementation of the BAM is expected to result in improved agricultural infrastructure; access to risk insurance; good environmental management systems and land use practices; development of agribusinesses; improved institutional capacity; and the strengthening of public/private partnership in the value chain.
The development of our country’s Food and Nutrition Security Policy and Action Plan is also an attempt to ensure that the national food production, processing, distribution, marketing, trade, and food safety and agricultural public health system is capable of providing safe, adequate, nutritious and affordable food for the country’s inhabitants at all times, thereby achieving food and nutrition security.
We are approaching agriculture, forestry and fisheries in a strategic and systematic manner and are determined to increase the overall production of commodities for food security and to contribute to the economy in a meaningful way.
The Government of SVG will continue to implement programmes to eradicate hunger and strive to ensure that all in society have access to safe and nutritious food. In so doing, we shall require the assistance of the international community in the form of technical and financial assistance to strengthen our food production, marketing, agricultural health and food safety systems. We also seek the understanding and cooperation of the international community in securing the necessary flexibility in the on-going trade liberalization process that allows for the attainment of key development objectives and in particular, for the achievement of food security.
I wish all citizens a blessed World Food Day!(Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Rural Transformation, Forestry, Fisheries and Industry, Saboto Caesar at the World Food Day Commemoration 2013)