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Mr Marwa Joel Kisiri, Ambassador and Head of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP), moderated the session and started by giving an overview of how important it is to contribute in agribusiness and agro-industry to achieve the 2030 Agenda goals in order for trade to be inclusive. Agriculture is the backbone of the economy, development, and labour in developing countries, especially in the ACP.
Mr Mohammad Pervaiz Malik, Minister for Commerce and Textile, Pakistan, gave a keynote address, saying that 75% of the population in Pakistan depend on agriculture for their livelihood. The gross domestic product (GDP) of Pakistan has declined due to the decrease in economic growth, and the main contribution to GDP comes from the agricultural sector. He suggested that to achieve the 2030 Agenda goals, it is crucial that the government minimise inequality, improve unsustainable production levels, and develop agribusiness and infrastructure. The government should also work together with the private sector to help farmers access technology and knowledge. Malik also called for direct foreign investment to help reach the 2030 Agenda goals.
Ms Carolyn Rodrigues Birkett, Director, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Liaison Office, United Nations, Geneva, remarked that food and agriculture are changing in unprecedented ways due to globalisation, increases in demand volumes, and advancement in technology. As farming takes place mainly in rural areas, it is effective to add value to agricultural products as this will boost employment, reduce poverty, and lead to the production of more nutritious food. Unexpected marginalisation of farmers should be avoided and the ministries should implement policies that protect farmers. Birkett noted that agribusiness and agro-industry are the keys to connecting farmers directly with consumers, which can reduce food loss and lead to a faster turnaround for the food process. She also gave a brief overview of The African Agribusiness and Agro-industry Development Initiative (3ADI), which is an innovative initiative that includes technology, assistance, and knowledge management.
Mr Zubair Tufail, President of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, talked about the agriculture business from the private sector perspective. Tufail said that agriculture has always generated incomes and affected the well-being of humans. He gave the example of Pakistan’s main exported crop, cotton, which is farmed in rural areas populated by 75% of Pakistan’s population. He expressed his concern that those farmers do not get fair value for selling their crops and are able to cover only 40% to 50% of the production cost. It is vital to protect the crops which need to be stored; however, due to insufficient storage, most of these crops are destroyed. The recommendation is to turn raw crops into value-added goods so that the farmers can earn more revenue. Most of the agriculture industry is operated by the private sector, thus, the interest of the farmers should be considered by businesses. He believes that the farmer should take part directly in e-commerce to sell goods and connect with consumers as this will eliminate middlemen who are benefiting from the global value chain.
Mr Frank Hartwich, Industrial Development Officer, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), highlighted that agriculture, agro-industry and agribusiness development are fundamental for the ACP and developing countries for two reasons:
Hartwich presented a chart, explaining that the contribution of food and beverages has led to an increase in the GDP of the ACP while it has decreased the employment rate in those countries. Thus, the higher production of food and beverages does not have an impact on the growth of employment. Hartwich also talked about how agro-industrial development can be accelerated. The necessity for private sector engagement for inclusive development and dealing with global value chain dynamics should be emphasised. Learning, information, and organisational support are the main policy instruments for value chain development. Hartwich introduced 3ADI which is a former joint initiative of the African Development Bank (AFDB), FAO, the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), and UNIDO, which aims to create an agriculture sector with a productive and profitable value chain. It will tackle global challenges such as population, migration, climate change, and urbanisation.
by Aye Mya Nyein