Global Agriculture

FAO Chief Urges Innovation and Focus on Production and Smallholders to Tap Benefits of Agrifood Trade

28 June 2024, Geneva: Global hunger is on a “dangerous” rising trajectory and achieving a sustainable and food-secure world requires not just economic policy measures but strong political and social commitments, QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said today at a high-level session during the Global Review of Aid for Trade hosted by the World Trade Organization in Geneva.

Fair trade practices are part of the promotion of inclusive and equitable growth, he said, noting that trade by nature should be complementary.

The Director-General spoke on a panel with Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, Cameroon’s Minister of Trade, Mathieu Guibolo Fanaa, Chad’s Minister of Trade and Industry, and other experts. The discussion focused on how to make trade policy an enhancing variable in achieving global food security goals.

Feeding the world is not just a technical issue but a security challenge with humanity’s future at stake, said Atangana, who said that clear and binding rules are critical for developing nations and emphasized that Aid for Trade initiatives must be in the service of helping the supply side and developing production, without which infrastructure has less value.

Food security should be a priority for the WTO, said Fanaa, adding that this will require increasing agricultural production in Africa, which in turn will require equitable conditions in international markets.

Food security and agricultural trade featured prominently in the breakout sessions of the three-day Aid For Trade conference, with FAO officers participating in several of them.

Five points

The Director-General offered five suggestions for how to improve global food insecurity, noting that FAO’s modelling forecasts there will still be nearly 600 million chronically undernourished people in 2030.

First is to support growth by investing in rural infrastructure, including broadband and financial ser vices, roads, and storage facilities to improve access to markets by smallholders who produce most of the world’s food and, while major private investors, cannot do everything on their own.

Second is to invest in research, development and innovation – all of which he described as part of the “bottom line for any trade policy” – to strengthen the resilience and sustainability of agrifood systems while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fostering integrated and sustainable water management and use. “This is the only way to produce more with less,” he said.

Reducing food loss and waste is a third cardinal point, Qu said.

His fourth point was that the best way to achieve the previous goals is to focus on smallholders and vulnerable populations.

Lastly, stronger global collaboration and governance will be required to achieve a food-secure and sustainable world.

“We have to look after our own planet before it’s too late,” the Director-General said.

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