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Business addresses World Food Summit in Rome

12 June 2002 - Rome, Italy

Statement by Kristen E. Sukalac (International Agri-Food Network) to the World Food Summit: five years later.

I thank you, Chair, for the opportunity to address the World Food Summit: five years later this evening.

The International Agri-Food Network was formed at the time of the 1996 World Food Summit and continues to facilitate informal liaison among the professional organizations in the agri-food chain. Participation is open to any association representing a sector in the agri-food chain at the global level. Sectors that do not have an established, truly international organization may liaise through regional associations.

The intricate links in the food chain - from the supply of agricultural raw materials to the production of food and its distribution - are of primary concern to the International Agri-Food Network and all associated businesses involved in feeding the world. These include companies providing essential inputs, individual and family farms, co-operatives, companies involved in food processing and transport and may range from small and medium sized enterprises to multi-national corporations.

Feeding a global population projected to be 50% higher in 30 years time will require technological innovation and sounder management of scarce resources such as land and water. Increased investment, innovation and good management are key; business activities and international trade need to raise productivity efficiently.

Expanding global food production through productivity advances in the agricultural sector is, however, only part of the solution for large parts of the developing world where hunger is a consequence of poverty. Here the bigger challenge is to raise productivity across all sectors of the economy - to create jobs and raise living standards so that people can afford to buy more food with higher nutritional levels. The challenge of eradicating poverty and hunger is not only a question of technology, but is linked to the distribution of resources and income, access to markets and trade, as well as suitable conditions for social, political and economic development.

The agri-food sector has followed the general trend in which public investment has diminished while private investment has increased. The private sector can only meet this larger and growing responsibility within the appropriate legal and institutional frameworks, which are the responsibility of governments. Security of land tenure, protection of intellectual property rights, availability of credit for rural development, a favourable investment and regulatory climate and expeditious customs procedures are just some of the conditions required.

Government actions can have a positive impact on the capacity of the private sector to contribute to food security and sustainable agriculture. All governments must make a clear commitment to open, well-functioning markets, an enabling framework for the dissemination of safe technology in agriculture and food production and science-based food quality standards.

The challenges facing the international community include:
· Hunger and malnutrition persist despite the increases in food production achieved in the last decades.
· The world population is growing by 90 million people per year while the total area for cultivation is limited. Indeed, considering the effects of such factors as urbanisation, desertification and soil erosion, available arable land is declining, and water is becoming scarcer.
· Rising incomes in many parts of the world are changing patterns of food consumption.

The agri-food industry sectors have a major responsibility in facing up to these challenges by:
· assuming a continuing role in agricultural research and development;
· adopting a growing role in training, capacity-building and technology transfer;
· providing technologies that contribute to meeting world food needs in a sustainable manner and promoting an integrated approach to farm management that improve plant nutrition, water management, crop protection and animal health, among others;
· helping to constantly improve the quality and variety of food and agricultural products;
· aiming for closer cooperation and co-ordination among the various sectors of the agri-food chain.

With regard to this last point, business and industry would like to note its appreciation of the opportunities that FAO has provided at this Summit for non-government actors to engage: the multistakeholder dialogue, the parallel Private Sector and NGO Forums and the provision of facilities on FAO premises for side events. We hope that this engagement will continue to deepen and that the modalities tested here this week will be improved. However, dialogue is only a beginning, and cooperative action among all stakeholders in the food chain is now required more urgently than ever before.

Public/private partnerships and mutistakeholder projects have, in recent years, spread and involved an increasing number of groups. It seems that all of us here this week have a common goal:
· putting sustainable agriculture into practice to end hunger.

Indeed, multistakeholder processes have already contributed to increasing food security and poverty reduction. Business and industry is proud to have taken part in such cooperation and looks forward to continuing and furthering such partnership initiatives, which must learn from past experiences, both those that were successful and those that were less so.

During a side event today, three of the associations that participate in the International Agri-Food Network shared their experiences of public/private partnership, with the hope of engaging in the dialogue necessary to deepen existing cooperation and find new areas of joint action that will contribute to food security for all. We hope that together we will find ways to exceed the World Food Summit goals.