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World steps up fight to guarantee food security

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Everything from famine and war to climate change and land use all usually have one thing in common – food security.

The problems of food security have increasingly come to the fore in recent years, usually impacting people in the poorest countries in developing nations.

But the conflict in Ukraine, and the subsequent spin off effects for spiralling food prices and the cost of living, has also made rich Europeans ever more aware of potential food security problems.

The issue was highlighted just last week by EU Council president Charles Michel at the G20 summit in India – the meeting of the world’s richest countries - where he spoke of “the global consequences” of current conflicts, “especially the food (and energy) security.”

His message is partly echoed by Left MEP Mick Wallace (Independents for Change, Ireland) who says, “The science is absolutely clear, the biggest threats to our food security and to the future of agriculture are the climate and biodiversity crises.”

The European Union and international community have now come together in also voicing “concern” at the “rising threat” to global food security.

Speaking at an event last week, EU ambassador Charlotte Adriaen urged all parties to “join forces” to ensure that all have “access to safe and nutritious food.”

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Based on the 1996 World Food Summit, food security is defined when all people, at all times, “have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

Last November,the EU unveiled a new humanitarian aid package of €210 million to be rolled out in 15 countries. This brings the EU’s overall support for global food security to up to €18 billion between 2020-2024.The European Commission says it is constantly “stepping up” support to help those most affected by the devastating effects of rising food insecurity globally.

An international conference on food security last week heard that current projections indicate that around 670 million people will still be hungry in 2030.There is, it was also said, a “growing threat” posed by climate change to food security in Central Asia and the rest of the world.

The International Conference on Food Security (7-8 September) heard that the clock is ticking on the much-vaunted 2030 Agenda and the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).

The SDGs, also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

As there are now under seven years left to implement the 2030 Agenda there is an urgent need to “accelerate and intensify” action, the conference was told.

Other areas of concern highlighted at the event, attended by senior EU officials and government ministers from several EU Member States, include growing uncertainties about the prospects for agri-food trade and the global economy in the near future.

The impact of trade restrictions is also worrying, it was noted.

The message was reinforced this week (11 September) by the European Commission when it presented its 2023 Economic Forecast.The forecast revises growth in the EU economy down to 0.8% in 2023, from 1% projected in the Spring Forecast, and 1.4% in 2024, from 1.7%. 

Speaking at the conference in Samarkand, EU ambassador Adriaen said the event was an opportunity for multiple countries and organisations to come together to discuss the “vital” issue of food security.

The aim, she believes, should be to “join forces in an effort to work together to ensure that people have access to good, nutritious and safe food.”

Affordability of food is another issue and, increasingly nowadays, climate change and its impact on agriculture and output also has to be considered, said Mrs Adriaen.

“Food security is an essential and extraordinary issue for the entire world,” said Mrs Adriaen.

Further comment comes from Dr Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) which provided some technical assistance for last week’s conference. He said it was important to review the state of global food security “in the context of agrifood systems transformation” on the path towards achieving the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

Part of the solution, Qu said, is to "improve production and at the same time offer a sustainable supply through international trade and through smooth logistics, food availability, food accessibility, and food affordability."

Turkey’s agriculture minister Ibrahim Yumakli says recent events have highlighted the “importance” of food security, adding that such events include “rapidly changing climate conditions, democratic changes and problems of access to food.”

He said, “Unfortunately, these problems usually and mostly impact on the poor but everyone should have access to adequate and nutritious food.”

He warns that up to 600m worldwide will continue to face malnutrition by 2030, adding, “even so, the SDGs can still be achieved with closer cooperation.”

Francesco Lollobrigida, Italy’s agriculture minister, said the issue of food security will be highlighted next year when his country hosts the G7 summit.

It will be a chance, he says, “to reaffirm the need for more developing nations to support research at the global level so that no one is left behind.”

Elsewhere, Sinhu Bhaskar, CEO of the EST Group, said his company was trying to reduce its carbon footprint in a bid to help tackle the problem and added, “We must all also cut our dependency on generating income from just one sector (agriculture).We have to attack this problem in a more holistic way. If we do that I believe we can be successful.”

A so-called “Samarkand Declaration”, issued after the conference, outlines some 24 recommendations. These include:

Developing agriculture in an environmentally friendly and biodiversity-promoting way, while making the best use of water resources;

Encouraging the promotion of healthy eating habits among the public, particularly children and teenagers, through the implementation of all-encompassing nutritional initiatives in schools and

Expanding women's rights and opportunities in rural areas, to increase their participation in agro-food systems;

Supporting small and family farms at a state level, increasing their access to financial support and their ability to produce and utilize natural resources.

Meanwhile, agreements worth US$1.88 billion were signed at an Agri-Food Investment Forum that took place alongside the conference. These include direct investments - 24 projects worth US$857.3 million; grants and funds from international financial institutions – 14 projects, totalling US$707.5 million and trade agreements valued at US$319.2 million.

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