The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries – along with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) – on October 17 marked World Food Day, calling for greater investment in the transformation of food systems to ensure food and nutritional security and to help cope with shocks and crises.

In an October 16 joint press release, they said that many issues – soaring food prices and transport costs, disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, conflicts across the globe including the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the rise of climate-related disasters such as floods and drought – are driving an increase in food and nutritional insecurity.

The hardest hit and the most vulnerable are those who are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, they said.

Antonio Schiavone, head of FAO operations in Cambodia, said that because agrifood systems are interlinked to so many different areas – from agriculture to natural resources to energy and health – they hold great potential as vehicles for a more equitable and prosperous future. Sustainable food systems will benefit everyone, including the most vulnerable.

“FAO stands ready to support the government in implementing national pathways for the transformation of Cambodia’s food systems, and will work closely with different stakeholders, including private sector, academia and development partners to help empower smallholder farmers by transforming the ways in which our food is produced, delivered and consumed,” he said.

Schiavone said that boosting local safe and nutritious food production and ensuring smallholder farmers’ access to agricultural inputs, innovation and technologies, working capital and markets are crucial to this transformation.

According a recent WFP report, the price of rice has remained relatively stable, while the prices of widely consumed foods like duck eggs and morning glory have increased by 20.8 per cent and 30.7 per cent respectively year-on-year. There have also been increases in the prices of imported foods. The price of vegetable oil was 39.7 per cent higher in May this year over the same month last year, with a 13.5 per cent increase coming since February.

The press release said rice production is expected to remain at above-average levels, indicating that Cambodia would not face critical food shortages, though the current lack of food, feed, fuel, fertiliser and finance pose new threats to food systems.

Annelaure Duval, deputy country director of WFP in Cambodia, said: “The world is now in the midst of a global food crisis fuelled by the economic downturn of the pandemic, climate shocks and the impact of the war in Ukraine.”

“To date, Cambodia remains shielded more than others from the global food crisis. This does not mean that we should not continue to strengthen our efforts to reduce food insecurity and make sure that people are able to feed themselves with healthy diets,” she added.

She said WFP stands ready to back the Cambodian government, with its proactive response to the negative impact of the pandemic and intent to support those left behind. Investing in resilient national food systems and supply chains is crucial today to ensure a sustainable and resilient tomorrow, she added.

Om Kimsir, secretary of state at the agriculture ministry, said that strengthening food supply chains was necessary to ensure they could deliver consistent, nutritious food for all Cambodians. The best ways to strengthen them are through innovation, technology and digital systems.

Following the UN Food System Summit last year, where leaders from countries around the world made bold commitments to transform food systems, Cambodia has put in place the National Roadmap for Food Systems for Sustainable Development 2030.

The roadmap includes four priorities, aiming to promote a healthy diet for all, empower young people and the most vulnerable to take part in the transformation of food systems, strengthen the resilience of smallholder farmers and strengthen governance for a more inclusive food system.