Feeding the 9 billion, well: An urgent need for post-2015 agenda and improved partnerships

Shenggen Fan, John Kerin, Rachel Kyte and Luke Chandler

The title is my conclusion from attending the 2014 Crawford Fund’s annual conference on food security, held between 26-28 August 2014 in Parliament House, Canberra.

The conference was just excellent presenting prominent speakers who showed not only extensive knowledge about food security and its related challenges but also showed their care about this topic. It was also well-attended and it was my pleasure to meet not only researchers working on agriculture but also government agencies’ representatives, industry people and young scholars.

I came to the conference with this expectation and I must say the conference did deliver what I expected in particular presenting the list of challenges that we are currently facing supported by well-researched evidence and identification of opportunities to address those challenges. Yet challenges remain. I am personally looking forward to hearing progress in the development of post-2015 sustainable development goals that hopefully puts food security as a priority.


John Kerin, Chair of Crawford Fund, gave a welcome speech and highlighted that:

the best agricultural policy is education, closely followed by R&D


Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, and CGIAR Fund Council Chair in her speech suggested that:

Business as usual approach to agriculture is no longer an option.

She termed what is called “climate-smart agriculture” that refuses the idea that preserving vital natural resources, reducing carbon emissions and feeding people is a zero-sum game.
Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs, in the ministrial opening speech explained Australia’s leadership role in tackling food security issues. She mentioned about partnerships between Bogor Agricultural University or IPB and Charles Sturt University in agriculture and animal science students’ exchange that became possible with the support from the New Colombo Plan. The University of Adelaide also conducted a similar ‘sister trip‘ program with the IPB.
Minister Bishop further explained that Australia’s Aid now becomes more result and outcome-driven and puts priorities in agriculture, fisheries and water. She also highlighted the important role of the private sector allowing Australian investments to take leverage. Similar to what Prof Bertini delivered at the networking dinner, Minister Bishop said:

As always, women make a difference

Minister Bishop suggested that Australia should apply “smart cost-effective agricultural development” where development is targeted to improve market linkages and develop opent and transparant global agricultural markets.
Shenggen Fan, Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute, reviewed issues about under-nutrition. More than 2 billion people are micronutrient deficient. He argued that:

Access to food is fundamental human rights

and suggested that elimination of hunger and malnutrition needs higher priority in post-2015 agenda called “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Dr Fen explained that elimination of extreme poverty is at the center of the SDGs and elimination of hunger and malnutrition should be equally central.


Luke Chandler, General Manager, Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory, Rabobank Australia & New Zealand, shared his views about Australian agriculture’s role in meeting increased Asian demand. Productivity gains is at 1.4% per annum and what is needed to meet demand should be 1.75% per annum. Asia already dominates Australia export return yet Australia only accounts 6% of exports in Asia. He concluded that Australian agriculture does have a role to play in helping to meet Asian food demand – BUT – we
should not overstate this role or try and be all things to all consumers and give focus on quality markets, supply chain partnerships, how to incentivise farmers.


Laurent Zessler, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Director and Representative for UNFPA’s Pacific Sub-Regional Office, Fiji in his presentation suggested that a food-secure world must also have policy interventions which addresses other challenges like urban planning, sustainability in the face of instability.


Yudi Guntara Noor, President, Asian-Australasian Association of Animal Production Societies, talked about food sector linkages with feed sector using the livestock sector in Indonesia. He viewed that the oil palm-beef cattle integration system might have potentials in minimising less competition between food and feed. Cattle are allowed to graze under palm trees that control weeds and save costs normally allocated to herbicide and labour; the manure and urine can be used as fertiliser.


Willie Dar, Director General, International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, presented his views about resource competition between food and energy production. He concluded that food security is paramount over energy security and there is a need to balance food security and energy security to mitigate food price volatility. Moreover, biofuel development offers both opportunities and risks.


Elizabeth Finkel, Chief Editor, Cosmos Science Magazine, highlighted that journalists must keep recording and provide evidence for debated topics such as GMO, etc.


Norah Omot, Director, Enabling Environment Programme, Papua New Guniea National Agricultural Research Institute, in her presentation talked about nutritional challenges that PNG is facing.  While attempts had been made to increase productivity, less attention had been given to nutrition.


Helen Szoke, Chief Executive, Oxfam Australia, talked about “Watch your waste: lose less, consume sustainably, feed more”.


Jammie Penm, Chief Commodity Analyst and Assistant Secretary, Agricultural Commodities and Trade Branch, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences presented some forecasts about future global markets and how they impact on Australian agriculture. He concluded that they are large market opportunities in Asia, but the market is very competitive. There is a need to remove trade barriers to help food to flow to where it is needed and for Australian food industry, there is a need to develop business planning to consider changing Asian food consumption.


Nguyen Van Bo, President, Vietnamese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and member of the ACIAR Policy Advisory Council, talked about agriculture restructuring in Vietnam. He pointed out the need to develop a shift in paradigm, from food security to nutrient security.


Links to presentations can be found from the Crawford Fund’s website: here.

*This article was prepared by Risti Permani and is subject to her personal interpretation.

GFS proudly support the conference

The beautiful parliament house


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