Speakers at the ongoing 42nd Session of the FAO Conference have expressed concerns while addressing challenges the world faced today, mainly from the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID 19 pandemic has further put the spotlight on the sector. India with her tremendous growth trajectory in the field of agriculture will continue to share best practices and build capacities of other developing countries,” said Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar while addressing the session on Tuesday, June 15.
“I note with satisfaction that the agriculture sector in India performed well during the severe COVID-19 pandemic and registered an all-time high production of 305 million tons of food grains as well as their exports contributing to the Global Food Security,” he pointed out.
Earlier, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu set the scene for the week-long Conference on Monday summarizing the challenges the world faced today. Chief amongst them being the impacts of COVID-19, rising hunger and acute food insecurity but also malnutrition, unaffordable healthy diets, endemic poverty and inequality, and a more fragile environment.
"More than a year into the pandemic, we are witnessing the scale of its long-term effects on the agri-food systems, and how it has worsened the food security and nutrition situation around the world and especially in food crises countries," he noted.
The Conference kicked off with messages from Italy's President Sergio Mattarella, and Pope Francis.
They joined the others in a passionate call for tangible actions, innovative solutions, and continued commitment to rebuild a better, greener world anchored in efficient, resilient, inclusive and sustainable agri-food food systems that can provide healthy and affordable diets for all, and resist future crises.
President Mattarella highlighted the impacts of COVID-19 on agri-food systems and urged for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals with renewed determination; addressing rising food insecurity and moving towards sustainable development inspired by SDG2 - zero hunger.
He also outlined Italy's role in supporting COVID-19 recovery efforts and agri-food systems' transformation through its current presidency of G20. He also alluded to his country's support of the Food Coalition and the UN pre-Food System Summit - to be held in Rome next month, and as co-chair of COP26 UN climate change conference.
The message of Pope Francis was delivered by the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to FAO, Monseigneur Fernando Chica Arellano. It called for a culture of care and peace and the rejection of the virus of indifference.
The Pope underscored the need for developing a circular economy that guarantees resources for all; adopting policies that can tackle the structural causes of rising hunger, promoting sustainable and diversified agriculture, making the most of innovation, and supporting small-scale farmers. The Pope highlighted FAO's work to tackle food insecurity and malnutrition, considering it of particular relevance at present.
"To get to where we need to be by 2030, we must perceive the challenges facing us through an agri-food systems lens; and act holistically," underscored Qu.
And to make this happen, the Director-General put emphasis on science, innovations, and digital applications - billing them as essential blocks in the future of agriculture.
In his address, Minister Tomar also mentioned that agriculture has been one of the major success stories post-Independence in India. “The Green Revolution, White Revolution, Blue revolution along with the Public Distribution System and price support system for farmers are unparallel in the world,” he said.
“FAO has benefitted from India’s vast repository of knowledge which is shared globally among the member countries. India has been working closely with FAO, extending technical expertise and assistance in incidences of trans-boundary pests mainly Fall Army Worm and Desert Locust. I acknowledge the support of FAO in endorsing the Indian proposal for an International Year of Pulses which was celebrated in 2016 and for declaring 2023 as the International Year of Millets,” Tomar also stated.
The Conference takes place every two years and is FAO's supreme governing body. It determines the policies of the Organization, approves the budget, and makes recommendations to Members on food and agriculture issues.
For the first time ever, the FAO Conference is held in virtual mode. The opening session saw a record-breaking number of participants from around the world - over 1,300 people, including 119 Ministers and Vice Ministers.