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It is our considered position that a regional approach to food security within a global framework is essential, since food habits and production are region specific in nature. I would like to request the FAO to initiate a global mechanism for developing regional buffer stocks of staple food. We, in the SAARC region are home to nearly one fifth of the world population. A regional buffer stock of staple food will take pressure off governments in the SAARC enabling them to concentrate on other issues such as reducing poverty and enhancing the quality of life of their peoples.
A regional buffer stock would also cushion individual countries against the fluctuations in food production, caused by the uncertainties of the weather made worse by recent climatic changes. And for regions that may lack adequate financial capacity for such a project, international support will be required. These buffer stocks could be maintained nationally or by regional agencies but be funded internationally. We can explore different options, including through instruments generated by international financial institutions, for funding such mechanisms.
In the midst of all these, I believe there are some countries in the world which have been able to build a surplus of staple foods. These countries are affluent and therefore should move towards helping build the regional buffer stocks by contributing through supply at low cost. That will be a good start and also will help to build a meaningful global cooperation towards reducing the vulnerability of many small developing countries.
Creating a regional buffer stock would be meaningful only if adequate food stocks could be moved to needy countries in a short time. In the past we have witnessed instances where adequate shipping space or other means of transport had been hard to come by. Low freight, minimal handling charges and of course the waiving off of country specific Customs and other duties when such emergency food stocks are being exported is crucially important if we are to make this suggestion workable.
I recognize that buffer stocks became an unpopular concept since the New International Economic Order of the seventies. But the changed global circumstances, in particular the grim fingers of hunger, require changed approaches for the sake of humanity.
As much as we are concerned about food security, attention must also be given towards enhancing productivity in the entire agriculture, fisheries and livestock sector. One impediment experienced by the farmers in my country is the severe shortage of plant seed and other planting material. As this is common to many other developing countries, it must be remedied fast with the help of the international organizations. Establishment of seed banks with state of the art technology is one solution to this problem. In the fisheries sector, there is a serious concern because our ocean’s harvest is being poached by foreign fishing vessels thereby reducing the supply for our people.
Most important of all, I strongly commend to the world leaders gathered here to seriously consider the setting up of a Global Food Crisis Fund that will have contributions from all countries and from large business organizations that transcend geographical boundaries, and from financial institutions, arms manufacturers and philanthropists of the world, among others. The mechanics of such a fund will have to be worked out in keeping with the goal of assisting countries faced with serious dangers to food security and also in funding initiatives for greater food production.
We are also of the view that in addition to such a Global Food Crisis Fund or working together with it, there should be Regional Food Security Funds drawing the financial and technology resources within a region to expand food production, improve storage and distribution and also come to the assistance of regional neighbours that may need help in the event of a food crisis as we see emerging today.
In conclusion, let me thank the UN Secretary General and the FAO for bringing this conference together and affording us an opportunity to share our views and experiences across the globe. My country will support you to develop a global action plan to face the crisis in the short run while at the same time to prevent a food crisis of this nature from recurring in the future.
May the Triple Gem Bless You All!"
Policy Research & Information
03 June 2008