UN summit: PM places 5-point proposal for sustainable food system

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today placed a five-point proposal at the UN Food Systems Summit to ensure a sustainable, safe and nutritious food system worldwide, laying emphasis on coordinated steps to lift restrictions on food and fertiliser exports.

She also stressed the need for the promotion of multilateral development banks and private entrepreneurs to invest in modern agriculture.

The premier made these proposals while addressing the official opening ceremony of the UN Food Systems Summit+2 Stocktaking Moment (UNFSS+2) at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) headquarters here.

The summit began this evening with the theme of “Sustainable Food Systems for People, Planet and Prosperity: Diverse Pathways in a Shared Journey”.

“Financial incentives and policy support at the international level are needed to encourage multilateral development banks and private entrepreneurs to invest in modern agriculture,” Sheikh Hasina said raising her first proposal.

In her second proposal, she said taking concerted actions is absolutely required to remove any trade barrier, including the lifting of restrictions on food and fertiliser exports alongside to continue the effectiveness of the Black Sea Grain Deal initiated by the UN secretary-general.

Placing the third proposal, she said the international community should come forward to establish global and regional “food banks” to deal with emergency situations and also help developing countries transform the food production systems in the situation given by climate change.

Nano-technology, bio-informatics, and advanced agricultural technologies developed keeping pace with the 4th industrial revolution in agricultural education and research should be made available to all, said the premier in her fourth proposal.

Making her final proposal, she said it needs to develop a massive social movement involving young people to prevent the waste of about one-third of the food produced worldwide every year.

“If we can collectively adopt and implement the necessary action plans, we’ll be able to achieve sustainable global food security,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina also asked the international community to introduce inclusive and sustainable food management for all as two billion people still remain out of food security in the world.

“Food, fertiliser, energy and financial crises induced by the ongoing Ukraine war and sanctions and counter-sanctions have intensified the problem of hunger and malnutrition around the world. However, the cost of agriculture and food products is not the only constraint to the inability to procure nutritious food. It needs the introduction of inclusive and sustainable food management for all,” she said.

The premier said some 690 million people are still suffering from malnutrition, nearly two billion are under food security and nearly three billion are deprived of a balanced diet in the world.

Turning to Bangladesh’s food sector, the premier said her government, being elected for a second term in 2009, My News Bangladeshted with a food deficit of 2.6 lakh metric tonnes and then it took various steps including providing subsidies for agricultural mechanisation, opening bank accounts for farmers at Tk10, ensuring a disciplined fertiliser distribution system.

“As a result, we not only achieved food self-sufficiency but also became a food surplus country by 2013,” she said.

According to a report by FAO, Bangladesh is one of the top-ten food-producing countries in the world. The country’s production of food grains increased to 49.4 million metric tonnes in the 2022-23 fiscal year from 32.9 million metric tonnes in the 2008-09 fiscal year, she said.

“Now Bangladesh ranks 3rd in rice and fish production, 2nd in jute production, 3rd in vegetable production and 6th in potato production in the world,” she said.

The contribution of the agriculture sector to the GDP of Bangladesh is 11.66 percent. But some 40.6 percent of the country’s workforce is engaged in agriculture. The contribution of the fisheries sector to the GDP is 2.43 percent, while that of the livestock sector is 1.90 percent, she added.

“Our government has attached top priority to agricultural research and innovation…. 690 improved and high-yielding crop varieties have been developed in the last 14 years. Our scientists have developed salinity-tolerant rice and they are continuing research to develop drought and waterlogging-tolerant rice,” she continued.

Sheikh Hasina said her government enacted the Food Safety Act in 2013 and formed the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority in 2015.

She said now the storage capacity of food grains at the government level is about 21.59 lakh metric tons in Bangladesh. The amount of food grain stock in the country is more than 16 lakh tonnes, which was 10 lakh tonnes in 2007. Some 5 lakh family silos have been distributed in 63 upazilas under 19 disaster-prone districts of the country, she added.

The premier said Bangladesh has been expressing interest in leveraging its agricultural innovations and experiences in various parts of the world, including Africa.

A large audience was in the plenary room and a few others were in the halls of the FAO headquarters while Sheikh Hasina was delivering her speech. The participants supported her speech by clapping their hands.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Prime Minister of Samoa Fiame Naomi Mataafa, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and Director General of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Dr Qu Dongyu spoke at the official opening ceremony of the summit.

Some 2,000 participants from over 160 countries, including over 20 heads of state and government are attending the UN Food Systems Summit+2 Stocktaking Moment (UNFSS+2).

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