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Speeches & Transcripts September 23, 2021

Remarks by World Bank Group President David Malpass at UN Food Systems Summit 2021

Secretary-General Guterres, Excellencies, and Distinguished Colleagues, thank you for convening this Summit today.

As of 2020, 690 million people – or 8.9 percent of the global population – are hungry. This has increased by nearly 60 million in five years.

At the same time, one third of food produced globally is either lost or wasted. New shocks related to conflict, pests, climate change, and infectious disease are also hurting food production, disrupting supply chains and reducing people’s access to nutritious and affordable food. Governments around the world spend more than $600 billion in agricultural support, yet some types of support work against good policies on nutrition, climate and budget.

Improving access to safe and nutritious food is a key priority for us at the World Bank, and putting food systems on a sustainable path will take a major shift in incentives.

In the lead up to this Summit, the World Bank and partners at IFPRI and the Food and Land Use Coalition led an effort to rethink the way food systems are financed.

We identified eight action areas to shift public and private financing towards more sustainable food systems.

One key action is redirecting public spending so that it is more effective, for example moving away from policies that favor rice and other staples over fruit and vegetables;

A second key action is investing in innovation, nutrition, and resilience;

For example, investing in R&D and extension services can help  farmers have access to improved, more drought-resistant seeds and better farming techniques;

Another example is promoting climate-smart infrastructure like drip irrigation and cold storage to conserve water and food.

The World Bank has a strong track record in this area.

We’ve significantly stepped up our food-related financing: last year, the World Bank committed about $6 billion in new IDA and IBRD lending for agriculture and related sectors, and our lending for climate-smart agriculture is 8 times what it was just 6 years ago.

We’ve helped countries like Pakistan, the Philippines, Rwanda and Uzbekistan diversify and modernize their agriculture. These countries are now seeing impressive growth in horticulture, new jobs, higher-value exports, and improved incomes for farmers.

In combination, smarter food financing along with science, technology and political will can be a major game changer.

These are development policies that we urgently need, and we look forward to collaborating with you on this crucial agenda. Thank you.