Hon. Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Minister of Agriculture
Prof. Udith Jayasinghe, Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture
Mr. Sisra Ekanayake, Convener of the National Dialogues for the Food System Summit
Mr. Vimalendra Sharan, Country Representative FAO
Mr. Abdurrahim Siddiqui, Country Director, WFP
Ms. Sherina Tabassum, Country Director – IFAD
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are gathered online to discuss a crucial topic that will lead to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by eliminating all forms of malnutrition and ensuring that sufficient quantities of safe, nutritious and affordable food are available to all. As many of you know, the Food Systems Summit is convened by the Secretary-General as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the SDGs by 2030. The Summit is designed as an opportunity for Member States to identify their own pathways to sustainable food systems and take the necessary action to address their unique challenges.
What is the purpose of the Food Systems Summit?
Globally and locally many actions are already being taken to improve food systems. For example, industry is investing in sustainable sourcing, in the reformulation of products to improve nutrition, and in the reduction of waste. At the same time consumers – where they can – are seeking out healthier and more environmentally friendly foods. But these many independent initiatives lack a shared vision and coordination of the investments and changes in behaviour that are needed to make a real impact. The Summit intends to consult with and bring together several diverse stakeholders, in achieving, among others, three outcomes:
The Food Systems Summit offers a timely process for helping policy makers and food system actors to understand better the impacts of alternative courses of action. Because we need to understand better how actions to address one objective affect others – how improving sustainability will affect productivity, or how measures to improve productivity will affect poverty and nutrition. A systematic approach and holistic design are urgently needed.
The Summit allows for strengthening partnerships, especially with the private sector. The private sector is the most powerful engine of innovation and investment for food systems transformation and we need to work together to guide their innovation and investment.
Finally, the Summit will strengthen our capacity for collective action in order to develop the food systems we want. The UN Food Systems Summit offers a process through which Member Countries can share experience, expertise and guidance.
What is the purpose of this dialogue?
National dialogues, such as this one, aim to broaden the engagement of communities in the Summit. You will agree with me that food systems are a complex topic that involve communities in a variety of ways, from production to consumption. Therefore, consulting their voices is crucial in ensuring that our solutions are equitable, inclusive, and sustainable. Dialogues such as this are an opportunity to engage all citizens as food system stakeholders. Everyone has a role to play in formulating collective solutions, therefore we must consult the key players from the worlds of science, business, policy, healthcare and academia, and just as importantly – farmers, indigenous people, youth organizations, consumer groups and environmental activists.
Furthermore, these dialogues are important in the context of COVID-19. The pandemic has revealed extreme inequities and alarming fragilities in today’s food systems. It has shown how they depend on millions of food producers and processors, many of whom are living with very low incomes. Some may be in occupations or dwellings where they are especially susceptible to the virus and measures used to contain it.
Important areas to focus on in Sri Lanka
Let me suggest to you three areas of importance for focus in Sri Lanka, during your discussions today:
Building climate resilience and land and water sustainability, across food systems. As we have seen, recent extreme weather events have been disastrous for food systems and food security. Although it is these extreme events that make the news, we know that changing average weather patterns are proving to be equally devastating to poor and vulnerable people in climate hotspots such as Sri Lanka
Ensuring food safety and nutritional aspects across the food value chain. Recognizing that the responsibility for the supply of food that is safe, healthy and nutritious is shared along the entire food chain – by all involved with the production, processing, trade and consumption of food and bringing together stakeholders across the whole food chain from primary production to final consumption
Establishing a demand driven crop cultivation system that is well-planned and targets markets, making allowances for seasonal changes and paying special attention to perishable crops. Establishing a demand driven crop cultivation system will also require agricultural research that will align with national development goals
I am confident that you will consider the above and many other areas of concern to Sri Lanka and the region to develop outcomes that will improve our food systems. I wish you a morning of productive discussions.