x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

UN food expert visits capital

Causes of global food crisis as important as solutions.

Dr Oliver De Schutter said that one of the problems was the small number of people providing the majority of the food. Crown Prince Court / Philip Cheung
Dr Oliver De Schutter said that one of the problems was the small number of people providing the majority of the food. Crown Prince Court / Philip Cheung

Abu Dhabi // Policymakers are being urged to focus on the causes of the global food crisis rather than simply on ways to produce more to eat.

Almost 900 million people worldwide, or one in seven, are unable to feed themselves adequately.

Many of them are food producers themselves, Dr Oliver De Schutter told an audience at the majlis of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Dr Schutter, a UN special rapporteur on the right to food and an expert on social, economic and trade rights, said the world had to increase its food production by 60 per cent by 2030 to meet demand.

"The challenge we are facing today is unprecedented," he said. "Climate change and the degradation of land increase the competition for natural resources, and shall reduce the surface of land available for agricultural production.

"At the same time, however, a focus exclusively on the tensions between supply and demand at the global level may lead to an incomplete diagnosis and to prescribing the wrong solutions."

Dr Schutter said that in the 1990s, 20 per cent of the world's population was hungry, and that it was hoped this would drop to 10 per cent by 2015.

This no longer seems likely - the figure today is 16 per cent.

One of the main problems to be addressed, according to Dr Schutter, is that a small number of food producers are responsible for a large amount of the total produce.

"We must therefore not only produce more, we must produce better, in ways that are environmentally sustainable and socially equitable," he said. "And we must do so with a view to reducing rural poverty and to meeting the needs of the urban and rural poor at the same time."

Since 2008, global food prices have reached record levels due to disruptions in agriculture caused by droughts and natural disasters.

This has made food unattainable for many families in developing countries, and had the knock-on effect of forcing people to choose between food, health care or education, for example. Dr Schutter said: "Neither low prices nor large volumes produced are an answer for the 500 million households in developing countries, comprising more than 2.1 billion individuals who depend on small-scale food production for their livelihoods.

"It is within the ranks of those rural poor, the majority of which are small-scale food producers, that we have find most of those are hungry."

Dr Schutter said a solution would be to examine the best agricultural practices used and adopt them.

He also urged cities to invest in small farms, and said countries should trade with other nations in the same region.

osalem@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Wam