Respected First Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Agriculture, and distinguished panelists:
It was only two years ago that world leaders gathered to discuss an urgent response to the global food crisis. The world food price spike had pushed an estimated 100 million more people into poverty, and added to the 850 million people that were chronically malnourished even before the price spike. By 2009 an estimated 1 billion people were undernourished worldwide. While world food prices have declined since their peak in 2008, they remain 50 percent higher than pre-crisis levels for some of the dominant grains, such as rice and maize.
Future food price volatility is also expected to remain high, with climate change adding to the uncertainty of supply. These factors amplify the continued need to accelerate food production. In 20 years time, the world will need to feed an additional 2 billion people. 95% of the population increase will be in developing countries. At the same time global annual growth rates in yields of major grains have declined from 3% in 1980 to 1% today. More investments are needed in agricultural productivity.
The World Bank Group responded to the food crisis by scaling up its agricultural lending by 50% to $6 billion a year. Our focus is on reducing risk and vulnerability, raising agricultural productivity, strengthening the links between farmers and markets, ensuring environmental sustainability, and improving rural non-farm incomes. In addition, our Global Food Crisis Response program committed 1 1/4 billion to 30 countries - with 40% for seed and other inputs, and the balance for budget support and social protection.
Against this background, Russia is already playing an important global and regional role, both as one of the largest grain exporters and as an emerging donor to help relieve hunger and improve agricultural productivity.
As suggested by the topic of this panel, Russian agriculture has potential to contribute even more to global food production, as it has one of the largest untapped land resources in the world. Some 25 million hectares of arable land could be brought into production. In addition, I am aware that the Government is actively taking measures to rise to the challenge of increasingly competitive world markets. We see many opportunities for Russia in this regard. In particular, stakeholders in the sector can benefit from international best practices, new technologies, agribusiness education at the regional level, and global market information. I look forward to hearing the insights of our distinguished panelists on this topic.
Today, however, I would like to focus on Russia’s key role as a donor, both for humanitarian purposes and for sustainable development. The Government responded quickly to the food crisis by pledging USD 15 million to the Bank’s program. This had an immediate impact on food supplies in Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic. Moreover, Russia is making substantial contributions to the World Food Program of the United Nations. Looking to the longer term, Russia agreed with other G8 governments in L’Aquila in July 2009 to improve world food security, including measures related to agricultural research and education.
Against this background, the World Bank is particularly pleased to be discussing with the Government a Russian Agricultural Development Aid Cooperation initiative. By better integrating Russia into the global research network, this initiative, which will be undertaken in collaboration with the CGIAR and the World Bank, will aim to:
- Improve food security in the Eurasian region and globally,
- Enhance environmental sustainability of agricultural production, and
- Build the capacity of the Russian Federation in providing agricultural advisory services in international initiatives, also in response to climate change.
The Initiative includes the creation of a Eurasian Center for Food Security to help enhance agricultural performance in the Eurasia Region and to ensure the sustainability of rural development and natural resource management. Over time, this center is seen as having the potential to become an important element of the global network of agricultural expertise, catalyzing agricultural development in the Eurasia Region.
As an international development institution we are pleased to be a partner of the Russian Government at the global, regional and also bilateral level. We look forward to deepening the partnership as these promising initiatives take root.