The head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today called for greater investment in farming to boost food production, citing the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) investment in date palm cultivation, which has made the country the world’s seventh largest producer of dates.
“This initiative truly reflects the importance of the date palm in the cultural heritage of the United Arab Emirates and in the food economy of the region,” said Jacques Diouf, the FAO Director-General, in remarks at the opening of the third edition of the Khalifa International Date Palm Award in Abu Dhabi.
Prizes were awarded to eight winners for excellence in research, techniques, production, cultivation and development. The award is designed to raise awareness of the role of dates in food security.
“There is a need to increase the supply of quality plant material for local and regional needs and to go beyond the present framework of date production by government plantations and a limited number of private farmers,” said Mr. Diouf.
He paid tribute to Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, saying that the UAE President’s commitment to the development of agriculture and, specifically, to the date palm had prompted increased investment in agriculture and a greater use of modern technology.
Mr. Diouf reminded the audience that, as in 2008, international agricultural markets again face higher food commodity prices that could undermine food security even as the world’s population rises, pushing demand higher.
The expected growth in the global population – from 6.9 billion today to 9.1 billion people in 2050 – will require a 70 per cent increase in global food production and a 100 per cent increase in developing countries, he said, adding that investment was not keeping pace.
‘The share of agriculture in official development assistance fell from 19 per cent in 1980 to 3 per cent in 2006. Currently, it stands at 5 per cent. Developing countries only allocate 5 per cent of their national budgets to the sector, instead of 10 per cent, despite its contribution to gross domestic product, exports and the balance of payments,” said Mr. Diouf.
More than 100 million tons of cereals are, meanwhile, diverted from food to biofuels on account of subsidies valued at $13 billion and tariff protection in developing countries, according to Mr. Diouf.
“If we add the impact of droughts, floods, hurricanes and other events exacerbated by climate change and the speculation on agricultural commodity futures markets, it becomes clear that the current situation is the chronicle of a disaster foretold,” he added.