‘Food availability, access, utilisation and stability must be addressed’ – Minister Mustapha

– at Pre-Summit for UN Food Systems Summit

Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha, MP, says in order for countries to ensure safe and nutritious foods remain accessible, food availability, access, utilisation, and stability must be addressed holistically.

The Minister made this statement on Wednesday when he joined Ministers of Agriculture and other officials from around the world in a Pre-Summit for the United Nations Food Systems Summit.

Over 50 countries participated in the Pre-Summit, which was held virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In his remarks, Minister Mustapha said: “The current food system makes ‘ultra-processed’ foods readily accessible, appealing and affordable, displacing more nutritious foods. Expanding the non-traditional agricultural sub-sector is therefore, critical for diet diversification and enabling equality in availability and access, especially for rural populations. 

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha during the UN Pre-Summit

Further, of growing concern is the need to reduce on-farm and post-harvest food loss and waste through adopting appropriate harvesting, post-harvest, and storage technologies.”

Following the onset of the pandemic, greater emphasis has been placed on building Guyana’s resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks, and stresses. Minister Mustapha told the meeting that systems are being put in place to confront those threats, safeguarding the livelihood of farmers and fishers in the country.

“COVID 19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of our food production and distribution systems and exacerbated other challenges such as climate change.

Guyana must confront these threats to the livelihood of farmers and fishers by making its food systems more climate-resilient,” Minister Mustapha said.

CARICOM’s Position

Guyana currently holds lead responsibility for Agriculture, Agricultural Diversification, and Food Security in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

The Caribbean Region is amongst the most vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change impacts and has been identified as the second most hazard-prone Region in the world.

Just recently, economies and food systems were impacted by the eruption of a volcano in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, affecting Barbados and other neighbouring islands. Hurricanes left wind and flood damage in Barbados and other islands in the Eastern Caribbean, and Guyana and Suriname experienced unprecedented flooding that resulted in tremendous loss of crops and livestock.

“Actions to reposition Caribbean agriculture include strengthening linkages between the agri-food, tourism, and health sectors; establishing public-private partnerships in local food production and processing; implementing climate-smart technologies and transitioning towards digital agriculture.

Financing for mitigation and adaptation to climate change has become more critical today than ever before and is necessary to protect and transform Caribbean food systems. International support from international financial institutions, and bilateral partners will be critical to ensuring a more resilient agricultural sector through financing, technology, and creating an enabling global environment,” Minister Mustapha said.

The Pre-Summit of the UN Food Systems Summit has served as the preparatory meeting for the culminating global event which is scheduled for September 2021. It aims to bring together diverse actors from around the world to leverage the power of food systems to deliver progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the shared vision for people, planet, and prosperity.

It will consolidate all of the substantive work of the Summit into a common vision and set a tone of bold ambition and commitment to action. The Pre-Summit will deliver the latest evidence based and scientific approaches from around the world; strengthen coalitions of action; and mobilise new financing and partnerships. Through the Pre-Summit, the UN Food Systems Summit will reaffirm its commitment to promote human rights for all and ensure everyone, everywhere has the opportunity to participate. The event is open to all, with a small in-person component in the context of COVID-19, complemented by a vast virtual programme and platform.

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