Your excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to commend the Secretary-General, the agencies of the United Nations, and our special hosts, Italy, for organising this “stock-taking moment”.
Indeed, it is a good moment to take stock.
In this moment, we feel the heatwave striking Europe; the fires in Greece show us the real meaning of climate change.
In this moment, we see that Russia, by terminating the Black Sea Grain Deal, continues to weaponize food, putting millions of lives in danger.
In this moment, the obstacles we face are clear. But we cannot step back. Rather, we must stand firm and step forward: in our actions, and in our commitments.
The European Union and its Member States are dedicated to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and to the advancement of the United Nations’ food systems agenda.
Just recently, we submitted our “Pathway to Sustainable Food Systems Transformation”.
Let me give you a brief overview of this pathway:
- what we are doing in the EU,
- how we are working with our international partners,
- and where we must direct our focus in the future.
EU agricultural sector contributes to meeting the SDGs
Firstly, in the European Union, we are working hard to implement our Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies.
These strategies bring together all actors in the food chain – farmers, processors, retailers and consumers – to work together, towards a more sustainable, productive and resilient food system.
From a farming perspective, our new Common Agricultural Policy is a key pillar of these strategies.
We have reformed our policy to deliver more targeted support to small farmers and young farmers, who are essential for the future of food security and rural communities.
We are also targeting support for the environment: one third of our budget is focused on helping farmers to deliver specific benefits for the climate and natural resources, for biodiversity and animal welfare.
With these actions, we aim to ensure that our food and farming sectors continue to make a leading contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals.
But we cannot achieve these Goals alone.
And this brings me to my second point: we are committed to the transformation of global food systems.
We are working bilaterally, via trade and cooperation. For example, we are funding “Food Systems Assessments” in around 50 partner countries, to support these countries in transforming how they produce, distribute, and consume their food.
Through our international partnerships, we are also supporting countries to improve their capacity for business, investment and trade, with a focus on developing fair, efficient, and sustainable value chains.
For instance, here in Rome we held our fifth Agriculture Ministerial Conference with the African Union.
This conference allowed us to deepen our cooperation across a number of areas, including partnerships in research and innovation, which are essential to make our food systems fit for the future.
This brings me to my final point.
Looking to the future, if we are to advance the United Nations’ food systems agenda, and if we are to achieve our Sustainable Development Goals, we must direct our focus on a number of key areas.
First, we must focus on food: to achieve zero hunger, tackling food loss and waste – identified in our 12th sustainable development goal – is essential.
According to the FAO, the food that is lost and wasted every year could feed over 1 billion people.
We can address this issue by encouraging better practices in the handling and storing of food after the harvest, by developing more resilient supply chains, and by improving education among consumers.
Second, we must focus on farmers: agriculture remains the most significant source of income for millions of citizens across the globe.
To end poverty, we must therefore support the small farmers of the world: according to the FAO, five of every six farms are less than two hectares.
These farms account for only 12% of all agricultural land; yet produce roughly 35% of the world’s food.
We must support them to improve their productivity in a sustainable manner – for example, by encouraging mixed farming systems that combine livestock and crop production to achieve greater resilience through closed nutrient cycles. We must also ensure they get fair rewards in the value chain.
Finally, we must focus on farms, on the land, the environment, and the ecosystems, upon which they rely.
Our farmers will have to mitigate, cope with, and adjust to environmental challenges: from water management and climate change, to biodiversity loss and land degradation.
We must support them every way we can, especially by driving international co-operation in research and innovation, to share new techniques and technology.
Ladies and gentlemen, as you can see, food systems touch every aspect of our lives:
- they provide an economic lifeline to millions of families,
- they produce food for billions of people,
- and they are essential to protect the immeasurable importance of our climate, environment, and biodiversity;
Indeed, to enable peace, to end poverty, to encourage prosperity – each of these goals find their foundations in secure and stable food systems.
So, by transforming our food systems – by making them more sustainable, more rewarding, and more resilient – we can transform our future, for the better.
We have much work ahead. And that is why we are here today in Rome, for a “stock-taking moment”: to see where we are, and where we must go.
But this is not only a moment to take stock: this is a moment to take action; to take responsibility; to take on the challenges and opportunities we face.
So let us take this moment: to embrace our work, strengthen our efforts, and drive the achievement of our Sustainable Development Goals.