71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Item 25: Agriculture development, food security and nutrition
The Delegation of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
“Agriculture development, food security and nutrition”
24th October 2016
My delegation associates itself with the statement delivered by the distinguished Representative of Thailand on behalf of G-77 & China, and thanks the report of the Secretary-General on this agenda item.
Achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture are imperative to achieve sustainable development.
Movements of population, rapid urbanization and changing lifestyles, limited natural resources and climate change have posed grave challenges to global food security and nutrition.
It is disheartening to learn that the overall progress in reducing global hunger has been highly uneven and a large number of people across the globe remain chronically hungry. While there has been progress in addressing under nourishment, appalling statistics show that more than 159 million children under the age of five are stunted, while 51 million of the same age are wasted. This is an unacceptable reality.
However, carefully crafted policies on sustainable agriculture, food security and nutrition at national levels can immensely contribute to alleviate the impact of these global challenges.
Ancient Sri Lankans were among the firsts in the world to manage the water resources by building complex reservoirs and canals to store and conduct water for irrigational purposes. The giant reservoirs in the dry zone of the country are still the lifeblood of its agriculture.
With this historical background, agriculture sector is the foundation of Sri Lanka’s economy with 70% of population living in rural areas who depend on Agriculture for their livelihood. It contributes about 11% to the GDP and employees 30% of the labour force. For us, agriculture development remains a crucial factor in eradication of poverty, ensuring food security and improving nutrition.
Having identified enhancing food production as the main strategy to cope up with rising food prices, a special home gardening project, “Awaraya Ahawarai” or “off season is over” was introduced by the Government to increase vegetable production and making available the harvest throughout the year. This will help to stabilize the food prices in domestic market without seasonal variations while strengthening peoples’ economic status and minimizing dependency on market for food and nutrition requirements.
A high-level committee on food and nutrition security, chaired by His Excellency the President, meets regularly to review the food situation in the country, price movement in the market and other developments in these fields with a view to formulating necessary policy directives.
Rice is the staple food in Sri Lanka. Expansion of rice paddy purchasing programme, which has been introduced to maintain minimum price for paddy farmers, also helps to uplift farmer’s living standards. Provision of import duty concessions for agriculture machinery, continuing fertilizer subsidy scheme, adjusting import tariff to stabilize domestic market for both producer and consumer, are some of the actions taken by the Government to protect the agriculture sector.
As a result of these strategies and directives, Sri Lanka has achieved self- sufficiency in rice.
We place a strong emphasis on nutrition as well. Sri Lanka has named June as the National Nutrition Month, with a view to uplifting the nutrition condition of the people. A National Nutrition Surveillance System (NNSS) is in operation throughout the country.
The “Thriposha” programme, which was initiated in 1973, provides a food supplement of proteins and all other required micronutrients to the pregnant and lactating mothers, infants and children from 12-59 months.
Addressing malnutrition in all its forms, the Government has integrated action across sectors, including complementary interventions in food system, public health and education.
Sri Lanka achieved the Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger, seven years before 2015. This shows that achieving the goal of eradicating hunger by 2030 is feasible.
We will strive to achieve SDG 2 through our National Agriculture Policy, which rests on three pillars, namely, assuring food security, ensuring environment sustainability and developing economic opportunities.