G20 Joint Foreign Affairs and Development - Food Security Session, Matera, 29 June 2021


Remarks Mathias Cormann,

Secretary-General, OECD

Matera, June 29, 2021

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ensuring food security and preventing the tragic, lifelong consequences of malnutrition remains a critical global challenge.

The food economy is an important source of income and employment in developing countries and plays a central role in the response to climate change. In Africa alone, it could provide job opportunities for the 29 million young people that join the working age each year up to 2050.

But to achieve our goal of ending hunger by 2030 and to promoting a resilient, sustainable and inclusive recovery across the world, we must step up our efforts to strengthen agrifood systems.

Let me highlight four points in that regard.

First, we need to ensure an open, predictable and rules-based international trading system. Indeed, while strengthening food security locally is key, global markets help food to move from where it can be produced to where it is needed. 20 per cent of all calories cross a border on their way from farm to table.

Yet of the USD 720 billion annually in government support to agriculture, almost half is market distorting, inequitable and harmful to food security and the environment. By contrast, 54 OECD and emerging governments spend only USD 76 billion per year on innovation, biosecurity, and agricultural infrastructure—all necessary investments to feed a growing world population.

Second, we need to make agrifood systems more resilient, including as part of adaptation to climate change. Building more resilient agrifood systems will require a shift from ex-post disaster assistance and relief, towards ex ante planning, for example developing frameworks to help farmers prepare and plan for natural disasters and proactively mitigate their impacts, such as adopting climate-resilient crops and promoting insurance schemes, particularly across developing countries.

Third, we will not succeed in feeding more people sustainably without higher productivity. The international community has a responsibility to make the agriculture sector more productive globally—investing in mechanisation, innovation, capacity building, infrastructure - such as irrigation, but also rural infrastructure to improve connectivity with higher-value domestic and export markets for smallholder farmers.

Finally, ample evidence demonstrates that investing in gender equality and the empowerment of women results in improved food security and nutrition. For instance, women and girls are responsible for over 75% of the planet’s unpaid care work, including food provision and preparation. They are also more likely to spend a greater proportion of their income on food than men.

This year’s UN Food Systems Summit offers an opportunity to develop a global approach to reach the goal of Zero Hunger by 2030. The OECD is bringing its evidence and analysis and working in collaboration with other IOs to support countries in these critical discussions for our shared global future.


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