Speech van minister Schouten, bij opening World Food Day

Toespraak van minister Schouten, bij de opening van World Food Day op het World Food Center in Ede, op 16 oktober 2019. De tekst is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

[Het gesproken woord geldt]

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the Dutch edition of World Food Day. I'm glad to see you all here. To begin with, I would like to ask you a few questions about something that we typically do not spend much time thinking about.

The theme of this week is: what was on your plate? So, my question is: what did you have for breakfast today? And do you know what is for dinner tonight? The supermarket shelves are piled high with produce, bread and cheese – all displayed as attractively as possible. Which flavour of yoghurt shall I buy today? Shall I bring oranges or pears for the fruit bowl?

However, for more than 820 million people all over the world, these kinds of everyday thoughts are nothing more than a dream. For them, food is something for which they must fight, travel great distances or stand in line. Worse, it may be something that they simply do not have, meaning they must go to bed on an empty stomach at night. 

There are various reasons for this. For example, millions are on the run from war and violence. For many of them, there is a serious possibility that they will end up in a situation where there is little food available.

Another reason is that our way of life hurts our climate. As a result, millions of other people face extreme drought or crop failure. We are depleting the earth: in areas where agricultural land dries out, people move away to the city, hoping to feed their families there.

In the coming decades, the world's population will continue to grow to an estimated 9.7 billion inhabitants by 2050.

I am aware that none of this is new to you. But we cannot repeat the message enough: we must switch to a circular food system. A food system that produces enough to provide everyone with healthy food and at the same time leaves our earth intact.

As a leader in agricultural innovation, the Netherlands has a responsibility in this regard. That starts here, in the Netherlands. And this responsibility requires that society as a whole is able to gauge the value of  food, that there is respect for the work of farmers, that the Dutch know where their food comes from. 

Today, 150 young adults, just a short distance from here, will put their minds to solving the problem of food waste. Connected online, they will do so with other young people worldwide. Their goal: zero waste.

They organised this day themselves. Children and young adults are an important target group. They are the consumers, employees, farmers and administrators of the future.

I am very happy that these young people feel a bond with the goal of circular food systems and that they are committed to it.

We are going to need them – especially in preparing for an important upcoming event: the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021.

That is why we are gathered here today to see what the Netherlands can contribute to this. There are Dutch people in every part of the world using their expertise and technology to improve production processes, prevent waste and increase food safety as a result.

We are working with local companies and government entities in hundreds of locations. Not just in developing countries but also in Spain, Germany and even the United States. For example, Dutch poultry farmers are helping companies in California install animal-friendly housing for poultry. 

In India, a Dutch company is conducting research on the cultivation of potatoes, onions, carrots and cabbage that can withstand salt. This is because soil salinity is a major problem in coastal farming areas in India.

And in the El Oued region in Algeria, where water sources are running dry, Dutch companies, together with Wageningen University, are studying how local farmers can produce more potatoes with less water and manure. The initial results are promising: water use in the trial fields is 60 percent lower than elsewhere in the region.

These are all innovations to be proud of. But we must press forward. If we want to accomplish Sustainable Development Goal 2 – zero hunger – by 2030, we must take bolder action. We must work together even more effectively. That is why, later today, we are launching the Netherlands Food Partnership.

The mission of this NFP is to build coalitions from a wide range of partners that are eager to work together. These partners are assisted to develop and speed up transformative ideas. Ideas that will lead to zero hunger and sustainable food systems. It will bring the suitable partners to the table and share their knowledge; create living labs and allow the outside world to share in their experiences.

An example of this type of coalition is SeedNL, a partnership between my ministry, the ministry for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation's and sector organisation Plantum. We want to strengthen the local seed sector in developing countries by creating the appropriate enabling environment. Ultimately, this should improve the productivity of local farmers so that they can feed more people. Because that is what it's all about, of course.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today is World Food Day. In this year's State of Food Security and Nutrition the FAO says: ‘With real political commitment, bolder actions and the right investments, zero hunger is still achievable'.

Our knowledge and our international role provide a good foundation for bolder action. As a leader in agricultural innovation, we have an extra large responsibility.

We are concluding the Dutch Food Week today. In a moment we will show you a video with some of the highlights from this week. The story of our food is told everywhere in the country: it is about how we make food increasingly better through innovations with more sustainable food production.

Afterwards, an interesting day awaits, hopefully with a good lunch and a nice dinner. Let us work to ensure that everyone in the world can end their days with a healthy meal.

Thank you.