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Opening speech of the conference

Opening speech of the conference

Speech by the Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Dr. Gerd Müller

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to Berlin. It is an honour and a pleasure for me to open this conference.

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of Federal Minister Aigner, I would like to welcome you to this year’s conference on “Policies against Hunger”. I am delighted that so many outstanding international guests from across the world are gathered here at the Weltsaal of the Federal Foreign Office. I would like to thank Foreign Minister Westerwelle for emphasising in this way that this conference has the backing of the Federal Government. Mr. Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg, thank you very much for your hospitality.

The title of our conference is “Food Security and Access to Natural Resources”. The right to adequate food is a human right. It is, naturally, a fundamental right to which we all have an obligation throughout the world. Ladies and Gentlemen, the discussion about achieving this basic right must take a more prominent role in all our countries. It is unacceptable that we are not progressing faster and more efficiently in solving this issue on a global level. The food issue is a matter of daily survival for nearly one billion people. When looking at the agendas of domestic and international politics, at newspapers and the press, you have to ask yourself: “What are we discussing? What are we getting worked up about?“ This issue, however, is a matter of survival for one billion people every day.

Let us have a look at the current state of global food affairs:

  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), approx. one billion people are currently suffering from hunger or chronic malnutrition.
  • The world’s population reached seven billion a few days ago. The dynamics of the global population development are set to continue.
  • According to FAO forecasts, food production will have to be increased by nearly 70 percent by 2050.

We should keep these numbers in mind during our discussions in the fora this afternoon. The world’s population will increase from seven to nine billion, and the growth will be particularly strong on the African continent. At the same time, usable resources of soil and water are becoming scarce. This raises the question: How do we solve these problems by 2050? An expected two billion more people living in this world combined with less land, and one billion people already suffering from inadequate food supplies today. In addition, demand for high-quality food is growing sharply, particularly in emerging countries.

At the same time climate change and natural disasters resulting from climate change are causing yield losses more and more often. Yield losses are already a significant problem which you will certainly be talking about when developing your answers and strategies.

Post-harvest food losses account for up to 50 percent of yields in Africa and India. There would be and indeed is sufficient potential to produce sufficient amounts of food. We must also focus our attention on this question: How do we solve the problem of harvest losses? These are questions that relate to infrastructure and logistical problems and are also linked to the development of a corresponding processing industry and the development of regional and local markets.

Ladies and gentlemen, economic and financial crises have an impact on world market prices, an issue that we focused on last year. The ministers of agriculture, led by Minister Aigner, have put his issue on the agenda. The G20 Summit has not only looked at strategies aimed at containing speculation in the food sector across the world but has also taken specific measures. This clearly shows that we do not just talk and organise conferences, but that we do indeed make clear progress.

The land-use conflict is increasing the pressure on resources. Germany is phasing out nuclear power and intends to cover this share of energy supplies through renewable energies – which brings us to the issue of competition for use: Will other countries follow our example? Will they also say “No” to nuclear power and “Yes” to bioenergy? If so, this question will become even more urgent. We are facing tremendous challenges, but we are taking them on. What we need is a new green revolution. These problems can be solved by focusing in particular on developing sustainable structures in agriculture.

This makes perfect sense to us. However, if you discuss this with members of government in many African and Asian countries, you will notice that such an approach is not standard policy. We have to focus our special attention on agriculture, particularly in Africa. I say this quite deliberately, given the presence of many guests from African countries today.

Ladies and gentlemen, looking at the population forecasts of the different countries over the coming 20 years, it is obvious that Africa will be the fastest growing continent by far. What we need is a reassessment of rural development and of all questions of training and education skills, especially in rural jobs and agriculture.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need to have adapted and sustainable production, which means using seeds in a new and modern manner. We need to implement the principle of sustainability in the use of pesticides and herbicides for plant protection, in soil tillage, erosion and resource protection. I could go on, but you can already see that you can no longer be a farmer today without training and skills. I am fully convinced that we are the answer to the problems. It starts in people’s heads, in their hands, in their skills and training. We need more cooperation projects, and the BMELV is ready to fund such projects. We have coordinated our approach across the Federal Government and the affected ministries. Let us take our latest project in Ethiopia. We are focusing deliberately on training partnerships and model farms to put into practice all these technologies and types of sustainable agriculture directly with the local farmers. Turning words into action – with specific and practical examples.

And we also need to strengthen international agricultural research. Some scientists rightly point out that for decades we may have focused excessively on rice and wheat. In light of the changes caused by climate change, the international agricultural research community must be more diverse in its activities and also deserves greater support regarding facilities and equipment.

Ladies and gentlemen, with this conference, we intend to provide further impetus and to make a specific contribution towards the ongoing process. I am therefore delighted that Alexander Müller has once again agreed to act as the chair of the conference. I am also delighted that, as well as attracting so many outstanding guests to participate in this conference, we also have globally recognised experts in the opening panel and the four different working groups this afternoon with whom to discuss these issues, enabling us to draft our conclusions and feed all of these issues and proposals into the policymaking processes.

On this note, I wish this conference every success and all the best here in Berlin.

Thank you very much.