Nod for digital council for food, agriculture

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BERLIN: The Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) drew to a close today with the agriculture ministers of 71 nations, thanking FAO and the other International Organisations for developing a concept for the establishment of an International Digital Council for Food and Agriculture, as requested in the 2019 GFFA Final Communiqué.

They welcomed FAO’s efforts on the concept and call upon FAO’s governing bodies to support a process for its establishment. The ministers issued a final communiqué full of pledges to make trade contribute to global food security and help smallholders access larger value chains.

To move towards a more peaceful and more prosperous world, we must create systems wherein food is “accessible, affordable and also healthy,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said. It’s essential that policy makers establish good macro-level frameworks so that civil society and the private sectors can contribute to shared goals such as the eradication of poverty and hunger, he added.

Qu spoke at a press conference with Julia Klöckner, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture of Germany, held at the end of a ministerial meeting in which more than 70 high-level representatives of agriculture ministries and international organisations participated.

Alan Wolff, Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organization, and Janusz Wojciechowski, the European Commissioner for Agriculture , also participated in the press conference after the morning session, where discussions focused on issues relating to food trade.

Digital Council The International Digital Council for Food and Agriculture was proposed by 74 agriculture ministers during the GFFA of 2019, who tasked FAO with designing a body able to enhance international cooperation, create synergies and avoid duplication in the fast-paced world of digitalisation.

The Council will provide structured and strategic policy recommendations on digitalisation of food and agriculture, organise efforts to share best practices, and promote interaction among countries and other stakeholders.

The Council will help forge consensus on norms and ultimately lower costs, boost efficiency and contribute to narrowing the world’s digital divides, the Director-General said. Digital technologies in agriculture span a wide array of activities, from food safety, trade finance, credit, customs inspections and consumer awareness.

Applications such as distributed ledgers or “blockchain” can make major contributions to traceability and safety in complex value chains. FAO has linked to a blockchain for its ephyto certificate programme for plant and animal health that has been adopted by numerous countries in sub-Saharan Africa .

Communiqué The communiqué, capping three days of discussions, high-level panels and breakout sessions, focused on policy support for sustainable food systems as the world population grows to around 10 billion in 2050.

It was handed over by ministers to FAO’s Director-General, the Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organization, and the Agriculture Minister of Kazakhstan, which will host the next WTO ministerial conference in Nur-Sultan in June.

Fostering trade for food security is a prime goal given the increasing global integration of food value chains. The ministers agreed that safeguarding food supplies to countries and regions with structural deficits will become more relevant going forward due to the effects of climate change.

For the benefits of trade to be harnessed for agricultural development, ministers also committed to helping farmers become more efficient and resilient to shocks by supporting diversification, providing risk management tools and investing in infrastructure, education and extension services.

Echoing ideas promoted by Director-General Qu earlier in the forum, the communiqué affirms that trade policies should be part of a larger integrated strategy encompassing environmental goals and including a range of domestic policies, according to the communique.

The ministers stressed the value of the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), which FAO hosts in Rome, and emphasised the need to integrate smallholders into markets through measures such as fostering cooperatives and promoting low-scale financing.

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