Remarks by Garry Conille at Food Systems Assessment Consultation Workshop Jamaica Virtual Opening Ceremony
07 September 2021
Thank you Dr. Crispim Moreira, FAO Representative in Jamaica, Belize and the Bahamas
The Honorable Floyd Green, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries
Mr. Erick Ekfeldt, Charge D’Affairs of the European Union Delegation in Jamaica
And other members of the UN System
Distinguished members of the Jamaican government and its agencies
UN development partners
Representatives of farmers organizations
Private sector, academia and the civil society
Members of the media
I bring you greetings on behalf of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the full UN Country Team in Jamaica as we stand in support of Today’s Summit.
These issues have fast become the defining issue of the 21st century – food and the entire food system that supports it.
Because of this, unlocking the potential of food systems is absolutely critical to meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals as well as the crucial targets of the Paris Agreement on necessary reduction of the CO2 emissions to stop the unfolding crisis of global warming and climate change.
The Global Food Summit and COP26
Today’s timing for FAO and the EU Delegation to hold this important consultation on the need for sustainable transformation of food systems in Jamaica is not a coincidence. Today’s event is well-positioned within a global conversation being convened by the United Nations and partners. The UN Secretary-General is convening a special UN Food Systems Summit on the 23rd of September in New York. And this event, precedes the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of Parties, known as COP26, to be held later this year in November in the United Kingdom.
I mention these important meetings, to highlight the urgency and currency of the conversations on food systems. Compounded by the scenario of today’s COVID pandemic, there is universal acceptance of the need to transform our food systems to make them more inclusive and more environmentally sustainable.
Crispim Moreira, FAO Representative, has mentioned the global consensus that today’s global, regional and national food systems are socially, economically and environmentally unsustainable. Poverty, income inequality and the high cost of food continue to keep healthy diets out of reach of some 3 billion people. Hunger, or under-nourishment, has been on the rise for a number of years around the world, even before COVID, underlining how we are failing to provide for people around the world, what is a fundamental human right – the right to food.
Malnutrition in Jamaica
In Jamaica, according to the last available statistical information supplied by the government before COVID, the percentage of the population not consuming enough calories per day (that is, the percentage of the population under-nourished), has been on a very slight rise according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, a publication of FAO, UNICEF, WHO and WFP. Under-nourishment however is only one aspect of malnutrition. Here in the Caribbean, including in Jamaica, we are also witnessing the consistent rise of obesity and overweight, and yet it also goes hand in hand with persistent rates of anaemia among women and micro-nutrient deficiencies in children. One out of 5 women in Jamaica is anaemic while at the same time suffering from high incidence of noncommunicable diseases due to obesity. We have also witnessed a slight rise of stunting of children under 5 before 2020 (SOFI statistics).
COVID-19 has made things worse, and made clear the linkage between inequality, poverty, high food prices and disease.
One of the goals of today’s workshop is to shift our thinking about food and food security to start thinking about it in terms of food systems that generate employment across multiple sectors of production, transport, processing, transport and retail.
Food systems are influenced by governance and policies which in turn generate impacts on the environment and ecosystems. Our current food system, and the agricultural production that underpins it, are simultaneously threatened by and contribute to the rising carbon emissions, soil degradation, freshwater scarcity and accelerated loss of plant and animal species.
But we now know, that more sustainable agricultural processes that use less water, fertiliser and pesticides can also boost biodiversity by improving soil health, habitats for farmland bird and insect species, and protect rivers and oceans by reducing abstraction and chemical pollution from run-off.
Unsustainability of our food systems is best exemplified by the dramatic rate of food loss and food waste. Consider for a moment that, by weight, around a third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. According to FAO, food loss and waste accounts for about 4.4 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. To bring it home even more clearly, food loss and food waste generate more than four times as much annual greenhouse gas emissions as aviation and is comparable to emissions from road transport.
This year we celebrate the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables and time to reflect on the consumption of fruits and vegetables as fundamental to healthy diets. Luckily Jamaica is blessed with a huge diversity of mineral and vitamin rich fruits. Unfortunately, access to healthy fruits and vegetables continues to be limited by high prices and high food loss. Up to 50 percent of fruits and vegetables produced in developing countries, including in Jamaica today, are lost in the supply chain between harvest and consumption. This means not only loss of income to farmers and access to healthy produce by urban dwellers but also a terrible waste of resources. It can take up to 50 litres of water to produce an orange. Losses in fruits and vegetables represent a waste of increasingly scarce resource such as soil and water.
Investment in more equitable food systems and a circular economy that is mindful of food loss and food waste is absolutely fundamental to achieving the SDG’s and to deliver on the Decade of Action by 2030.
Despite the statistics behind us, your participation in today’s Summit is evidence to the fact that Jamaica is committed to remaining actively engaged in a national and international dialogue intended to shift gears and accelerate momentum in a more sustainable direction. Let me commend Minister Green and the government of Jamaica for its consistent leadership on this front. The UN system is committed to being Jamaica’s steady partner on this transformative journey of its Food Systems.
Today’s dialogue represents an important opportunity to begin achieving consensus on not only identifying the challenges, but taking the strategic actions needed to build a resilient food system that is mindful of Jamaica’s proud cultural heritage and able to contribute to economic renewal and innovation. Minister Green, Partners, Colleagues, be assured that the UN system is committed to being Jamaica’s steady partner on this transformative journey of its Food Systems.
[presentation as preapred. Changes may exist in the actual delivery]