Phnom Penh (FN), Sep. 3 – Government representatives from Cambodia and from 45 Food and Agriculture Organization Member Nations in Asia and the Pacific, have convened a four-day virtual conference, 1 – 4 September 2020, to closely examine the present situation of the region’s food security, with a particular emphasis on implications linked to the spread of the coronavirus and its impact on food systems region-wide, according to the UNFAO press release dated Tuesday.

More than 400 delegates are participating in a virtual meeting of the 35th Session of the FAO Asia and Pacific Regional Conference, hosted by the Royal Government of Bhutan.

The conference aims to explore new marketing channels (such as e-commerce) and new technologies (including better storage facilities) that will help reduce food losses, as these are critical to ensure the flow of nutritious foods and to generate improved incomes for those who work across the entire food and agriculture sectors, the press release said.

“This virtual conference brings together the people and ideas to chart a true course of action for the benefit of all. We must find new ways to move forward and ensure sustainable food security in the face of COVID19 and hunger,” Jong-Jin Kim, Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific.

Cambodian Minister Veng Sakhon said the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and FAO have been working closely together on food security. The current Country Programming Framework 2019-2023 reflects the joint efforts to increase farmer households’ incomes and creating prosperity and welfare for the Cambodian people through new areas of work and approaches which could transform the ‘farming systems from ‘extensive’ to ‘intensive’, in a sustainable manner, to better integrate the value chains, to enhance agricultural productivity and diversification to meet local and international market demands.

According to the minister, aagriculture is recognised as a backbone of the Kingdom’s economic development.

“Agriculture has contributed 20.8 percent to the national GDP in 2019. Cambodia’s poverty decreased from 53 percent in 2004 to 13.5 percent in 2014 and is now expected to be below 10 percent. More than 60 percent of poverty alleviation from 2007-2011 resulted from positive developments in agriculture,” he said.

Minister Sakhon continued that in order to enhance the competitiveness of the agricultural value chains, the ministry needs FAO and Development Partners (DPs) to focus on productivity enhancement of rice, seasonal crops, agro-industrial crops, fisheries, and livestock; strengthen the supporting infrastructures, irrigation systems; promote  e-agriculture and use of digital platforms in production and trade facilitation.

“We will also promote sustainable land, forestry and fisheries resources management; institutional and human capacity development; partnership, coordination and active participations from all concerned ministries.”

The Asia-Pacific region is home to more than half of the world’s undernourished, and with COVID19 the number of hungry people in Southern Asia is projected to rise by nearly a third to 330 million by 2030, the Sustainable Development Goal deadline set by the global community to eliminate hunger and malnutrition in all its forms.