While the Brits brace for Christmas without turkeys, NZ leads APEC initiative on food security

Not enough turkeys for Christmas?

Calamity.

Not in this country (so far as we know), but in Britain, where the British Poultry Council is pressing the UK Government to deal with the culinary consequences of shortages of workers resulting from the UK’s departure from the European Union.

The British food industry faces huge disruptions that have forced leading restaurants – including Nando’s and KFC – to reduce their service or to close.

Poultry producers have warned that serious staff shortages caused by Brexit could mean there are not enough turkeys to go round this Christmas.

Supermarkets have also been struggling to fill shelves amid a serious shortage of HGV drivers that is affecting areas such as milk deliveries.

But a Canadian farming newspaper has drawn attention to a much more critical issue: famine is looming as developing countries struggle to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus with unpredictable and limited vaccines.

About 41 million people are at risk of starving to death in 2021.

In 2021, all the areas at immediate risk of famine are in the conflict-affected contexts of Yemen, South Sudan, northeastern Nigeria and Tigray in Ethiopia. Violent conflict causes famine not only by affecting the production and the distribution of food, but also by preventing humanitarian food assistance from getting to those who need it most.

Famines are rare, the newspaper says,

“… but in 2021, conflict, hunger, COVID-19, economic shocks, poverty, drought, locusts are all converging, and tens of millions of people are at the brink of famine. The most vulnerable among them, especially children, risk dying.”

Obviously, this country is far from being threatened by famine.

But our agriculture and food safety ministers have joined their counterparts from the APEC economies in making a commitment “to delivering a new roadmap to guide efforts to boost food security over the next ten years”.

The commitment was made at the virtual Food Security Ministerial Meeting hosted by Damien O’Connor as part of New Zealand’s hosting of APEC 2021.

In a press statement posted on The Beehive website, O’Connor says:

“Ensuring the world has a consistent supply of food is one of the biggest challenges facing APEC economies and the rest of the world, particularly as we recover from COVID-19.”

Oh – and let the record show that the official statement announcing the departure of an RNZAF Hercules with New Zealand Defence Force personnel to help with the international evacuation from Afghanistan has been posted, too.

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APEC economies commit to 10-year food security roadmap

Agriculture and food ministers from APEC economies have committed to delivering a new roadmap to guide efforts to boost food security over the next ten years, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced today.

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Earlier in the week, the Government announced the deployment of New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel to the Middle East to assist with the international evacuation efforts from Afghanistan, including of New Zealanders and other approved foreign nationals, Minister of Defence Peeni Henare said.

Damien O’Connor’s statement includes disturbing data.

The World Bank estimate nearly 2.37 billion people lacked access to adequate food in 2020 – a rise of 320 million in just one year. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to major disruptions to supply within both production and distribution networks.

“We must work together to overcome the enormous challenges we face. Overcoming food insecurity caused by COVID-19 is the immediate task. We also need to tackle issues that impact security such as climate change, water security, food loss and waste, limited resources, and the need to reduce the environmental impacts from production.

“The extent of this challenge is huge, but I believe it’s achievable. Fora such as APEC are critical in unlocking the full potential of the Asia-Pacific.”

Food Safety Minister Ayesha Verrall was New Zealand’s representative at the virtual meeting.

To hit our APEC goal of enabling more certainty of food supply, New Zealand has led the development of the Food Security Towards 2030 Roadmap that will guide efforts to enable food security now and in the future.

“The roadmap is a guiding document to ensure APEC economies work towards a common purpose of building a resilient, efficient and more sustainable food production system, linking together the strands of production, processing, trade, and consumption,” Damien O’Connor said.

 The roadmap incorporates four key areas of focus:

  • Digitalisation and innovation: using digital levers to drive food sustainability
  • Productivity: prioritising systems that are fit for purpose
  • Inclusivity: ensuring that underrepresented groups are set up to thrive
  • Sustainability: tackling climate change and environmental challenges

Member economies are committing to a programme of specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based (SMART) goals in order to meet the 2030 implementation of the roadmap.

Damien O’Connor said a Ministerial Statement for Food Security also released today is a sign of the commitment by APEC communities to this critical area.

Read the Food Security Roadmap Towards 2030

Read the Ministerial Statement for Food Security

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