The FAO's Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific (APRC) on Thursday, Sept. 3, emphasized the implications of the spread of the coronavirus and its impact on food systems region-wide. The virtual conference participated by government representatives from 46 countries in the Asia Pacific region.
The Asia-Pacific region is home to more than half of the world’s undernourished. While the prevalence of hunger is still decreasing slightly, the region is far behind the pace needed to eradicate hunger and malnutrition by 2030, the Sustainable Development Goal deadline set by the global community to eliminate hunger and malnutrition in all its forms.
FAO Director-General QU Dongyu in his speech from Rome in front of more than 400 participants who attended the conference virtually highlighted the negative effects related to the pandemic, which have been felt across the entire food system. “Measures to control virus outbreaks are disrupting global food supply chains. Border restrictions and lockdowns are destroying livelihoods and hindering food transport. Food loss and waste is increasing, as farmers must resort to dumping perishables, and many people in urban centers are struggling to access fresh food,“ he said.
Qu stressed that smallholder farmers and their families, food workers in all sectors, and those living in the commodity and tourism-dependent economies, are particularly vulnerable. “They urgently need our attention. We need to re-examine our food systems and value chains, make greater use of existing agricultural innovations and technologies, and consider new ones”, Qu said.
Facing the pandemic, FAO has launched the FAO COVID-19 Response and Recovery Program, which enables donors to leverage the Organization’s convening power, real-time data, early warning systems and technical expertise to direct support where and when it is needed most.
Indonesia’s Four Priorities in the New Normal
Indonesia Minister of Agriculture Syahrul Yassin Limpo in his speech from Malang, East Java, explained to the participants of the conference Indonesia’s four priorities in the “new normal” situation, highlighting the country’s efforts to strengthen food security in the pandemic. “To sustain the availability of food for all in the new normal era, we have developed a set of policies called four Ways of Action. The four priorities are including increasing production capacity, local food diversification, strengthening the food reserves and logistics system, and development of modern agriculture”, he said.
Syahrul highlighted that despite the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesia’s GDP in the agricultural sector increased by 2.19% year-on-year and 16.24% compared to the previous quarter. Despite the global setback in achieving SDG, Indonesia’s ranking in the global food security index has improved from 74th in 2015 to 62nd in 2019. The prevalence of stunting declined from 30.8% in 2018 to 27.67% in 2019.
Syahril called on the participants to strengthen their collaboration and support FAO’s Hand-in-Hand Initiative. “Through South-South and Triangular Cooperation, we are ready to share our experience with every country in the region and beyond, together, to contribute to the attainment of the SDGs in these challenging times”, he said.
The FAO Regional Conference is traditionally a forum to address current and emerging regional trends and challenges. In this year’s conference, FAO’s new “Hand-in-Hand Initiative” has been discussed. The initiative focusses on enhancing the potential of disadvantaged areas and groups of the population, in line with UN’s commitment to “leave no one behind”.
The Initiative is an evidence-based, country-led and country-owned initiative to accelerate the agricultural transformation and sustainable rural development to eradicate poverty (SDG 1) and end hunger and all forms of malnutrition (SDG2).