[Relevant documents: First Report of the International Development Committee, Global Food Security, HC 176, and the Government Response, HC 626.]
I am glad to have the opportunity to initiate this short debate on the International Development Committee’s report on global food security. The report was published some time ago; I believe the recommendations will have been read and absorbed by the Members who are here, so I do not intend to reiterate them. I will pick out some of the key points.
One of the things that we observed is that, although we are the International Development Committee and our concern is for poor people in poor countries, global food security affects us all. Food prices have doubled globally over the past 10 years, and food security, although it is a crisis for the hungry, has an implication for every society.
Indeed, it was pointed out to us in evidence that the UK is only three or four days away from a food crisis at any one time. The vast majority of our food is in transit on our roads and railways, which is where it is mostly stored. We saw that when we had a truck drivers’ strike; what brought that strike to an end was that the supermarkets and shops were about to run out of food. The Committee took the view that it was important to confront our own population, which rather backfired on us when we made the front page of the Daily Mail. As Members will appreciate, the Daily Mail does not support international development spending.
There have been two severe food shocks in recent years, in 2008 and 2011. Every night nearly 1 billion people go to bed hungry. We have reduced hunger, but we certainly have not improved nutrition. Indeed, malnutrition, which in a way is hidden hunger, is a major issue that is separate from the issue of people who simply cannot get enough to eat on a regular basis.
There are a number of reasons for those spikes, some more convincing than others. There is obviously the pressure of population growth although that was outside our report’s scope other than to acknowledge that, obviously, the more people there are in the world, the more pressure there is on food supplies. Therefore a population policy, to the extent that that is possible, is perhaps desirable. The experts also told us that they believe it is possible to feed the planet’s projected population, provided that we are organised to do so. However, the food spikes and the perpetual hunger and malnutrition that exist clearly demonstrate that we currently are not in that position.
Food waste is another issue. I was interested to hear reports this week that link to other aspects of our findings. Obesity is increasing in emerging economies. In places such as India, for example, there are people who are desperately poor and hungry, yet there is a middle class that is becoming increasingly overweight because of its diet.
There are two issues in that context, one of which is food waste. We received conflicting evidence; some people suggested that as much as 50% of world food production is wasted, but the settled figure seems to be about 30%. We are aware of how much food is thrown away in domestic bins. We all throw food away. We buy too much and we throw it away because we have not eaten it in time, but food is also wasted in the fields, in transit, in storage and in a variety of other ways.
By definition, addressing waste increases supply. That includes investing in security, refrigeration and cold stores and trying to ensure that food is processed as close to the point of production as possible. Many developing countries have a problem in that area because the cost of setting up storage and cold stores is high, yet without them food literally goes to waste. The Committee had an active discussion when we were in Afghanistan, where people were arguing that they have to process an awful lot of their food in Pakistan because they do not have the facilities in their country. That leads to waste in transit. Addressing that issue is clearly a relevant factor.
There are other problems. When a food price spike happens, it affects different commodities differently. One of the most volatile commodities is rice, but all the basic commodities can be affected. Some producers, as has happened in Thailand and Russia, for example, decide that they will protect their own populations by banning the export of such foods, but that exaggerates the problem for the rest of the world; it does not solve the problem. The Committee’s view is that we should discourage countries from export bans and encourage people to recognise that there is interdependence in the supply of food. There are issues on the supply side and on the demand side that need to be addressed.
There was an inevitable debate on the effect of biofuels on food availability—I have got to that debate only at this point because, although I think it is important, it sometimes dominates the issue of global food security. There is recognition that simple blanket encouragement of biofuels can lead to a switch away from food crops to biofuel crops, at the expense of food production. That is not desirable, but it would be wrong to assume that biofuels are therefore inherently a bad idea.
The issue is how to develop biofuels that do not compete with food production. There are some successful examples—Brazil is one of the better ones—of where waste products from food production can be turned into biofuels without affecting the delivery of food into the market. In some cases, there are areas of land on which food production is of limited value but where it is possible to produce biofuels.
The Committee is asking that we switch away from the blunt instrument of setting targets for biofuel incorporation into our motor car and vehicle fuels—the UK recognises that, but the EU is still wrestling with it. The UK Government have accepted that we should try to cap it at 5% and that we should try to ensure that, if possible, 100% of that 5% is made up of non-food alternatives. Indeed, the former Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), told us that encouraging the reuse or recycling of cooking oil has helped to increase the proportion of biofuels from less than 20% to more than 80%. Therefore, these things can be done, and that is almost wholly environmentally beneficial.
At the moment, the EU seems to be locked in a tussle over the level of the cap. The UK Government are committed to 5%, although they found themselves voting for 7% at one point. The European Parliament voted for 6%, but my understanding is that everything has gone back to the drawing board. I simply urge the Minister to use her good offices, and those of her Department and her colleagues in other Departments, to ensure that the principle should be to take the threshold down to 5% and to promote non-food-competitive biofuels.
Another logical and obvious point is that we need to improve the productivity of small farmers. It is important that people get to grips with the way the developing world has changed in recent years. There is an idea that the majority of poor people in sub-Saharan African or south Asia live on some kind of smallholding in a rural area or in the bush, scratching a living from subsistence farming. Well, many are, but half the world’s population now live in towns and cities and are not engaged in agriculture at all.
We therefore need to do two or three different things. One is to ensure that those on smallholdings get support to maximise their own food production and then—and only then—to sell food to provide additional support for their families. However, we must also improve yields to enable those people to supply towns and cities in their own countries, which often import food from outside. That goes back to the idea of improving storage and transport facilities.
There has been controversy over landholding. Different approaches have suggested that large-scale farming will somehow produce better yields than smallholders. The evidence we had—I suspect my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) will make a contribution on this—is that smallholding can improve productivity in a comparable, but much more appropriate, way. Obviously, it is up to individual countries to decide how they want to promote their agricultural mix. We have combined our farms to ensure we have larger-scale farming, so it would be wrong for us to criticise other countries that seek to do the same. However, we should not rush things, and, where large-scale farming is displacing smallholdings, there are certainly questions as to whether that is the best way forward.
I mentioned the Committee’s star coverage in the Daily Mail, which came about because of a particular interconnection with the fact that countries are changing their eating habits as they become more prosperous, which is also linked to the obesity issue. As the populations of emerging countries such as India, China, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia become better off, they aspire to eat a more elaborate diet—in particular, meat—encouraging the production of cereal-fed livestock, diverting food into meat production and forcing up the price of meat globally, which, again, is something we notice in this country.
We suggested that, over time, people in this country might want to consider eating less meat, which led to a headline along the lines of “Mad MPs seek to ban meat eating”. We were quite clear that we made no such suggestion, but we did think that people should consider balancing their diet away from meat. As someone who represents a beef-producing constituency, I did manage to win support from my local beef producers when I made it clear that there is a strong case for pasture feeding and natural livestock production and that there is a role for livestock.
What matters is how we raise that livestock, and I should put it on the record that the beef rearing we do in my constituency exemplifies the kind of meat industry we want, as opposed to the forced production of cereal-fed animals to supply a mass market. I think the Committee would stand by the suggestion that, over time, that is the sort of balance that needs to be sought.
It is estimated that, if we are to tackle hunger and feed the world, we need to increase food production by between 60% and 70% between now and 2050. That is a huge challenge, but we are assured it can be achieved if we introduce globally some of the measures recommended in the report.
I want to conclude by pressing the Minister on a couple of points and commending a measure that we saw in Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s productive safety net programme pays people in rural areas for work—sometimes construction work—thus giving them money to invest in alternative activities, many of which improved their farming productivity. We saw beekeeping and livestock rearing expanded, and living standards dramatically improved. The work also improved the physical environment—roads, access and so forth—in the community.
Of course, the programme cost money, most of which came out of aid money, and the objective in the long run is to find a way of making the programme sustainable. However, it definitely works, and we were very impressed to hear from some of the people directly affected about how their lives had been transformed and how they had gone from being unemployed and unproductive to being very satisfied, employed and productive, as well as having food and money in their pockets.
In two respects, the Government response was not quite as the Committee would have wished. One point was about social support. I have spoken about urban food shortages; the best way to deal with them is to give people the means to buy food—preferably from producers in their own countries. However, only 14 of the 29 countries with which we have bilateral programmes have social protection networks. The Government’s answer was that it was up to the country programme managers to make an assessment, and I accept that, as I think the Committee does. However, we would still make the point that, where possible and appropriate, provision could be improved and expanded.
The other issue was nutrition. Again, the Committee is pleased that, following previous reports, the Government have prioritised nutrition to a greater extent and recognise how important it is. Nutrition is about giving people not just food, but the right kind of food. While that is especially true of pregnant or nursing mothers and very small children, it is also true of the rest of society. The World Food Programme prioritises the issue, but there is an overlap between its target programme and the Department for International Development’s programme in four of the UK’s bilateral partners. We would like the Government to see whether they could, at least in those countries, bring the two programmes together to help the WFP’s programme and DFID’s own programme to be more effective in improving the nutritional element.
In summary, people are still hungry. If we are to achieve the millennium development goals and their successors, lifting everybody out of absolute poverty and leaving no one behind over the next 17 years, we absolutely have to address the issue of global food security and adopt measures, or encourage the adoption of measures, that improve supply, eliminate waste, improve storage, increase productivity and ensure that food gets to the people who need it, when and where they need it.
The Committee believes it has identified many of the areas where such work can be done. Much of it is being done, but, with nearly 1 billion people going to bed hungry every day, there are clearly too many parts of the world where it is not happening. The UK is a major player on this issue, and we commend the Government for what they are doing, but we hope they will accept that we have identified areas where they could do more.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Clark. It is also a pleasure to follow the Chair of the Select Committee, who has excellently outlined the Committee’s excellent report. Although things have moved on since it was first produced in May last year—that is not the Committee’s fault—it still makes some important points. The key points are, first, that there is still a crisis: 1 billion people go to bed hungry every day. At the same time, however, the report highlights the fact that positive things are happening, that there is a way forward and that the situation can be tackled if the right measures are put in place and the right policies adopted. That is a reminder of the enormity of the issue, but also points out that we can move forward, which is an important antidote for those who sometimes despair about whether anything we do actually makes a difference.
I would like to make a couple of points before I have the delight of hearing the expertise of the members of the Select Committee who will no doubt contribute to the debate. I would like to speak first on biofuels, to which the right hon. Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce) referred in his speech. As we all know, the production of biofuels was once seen as a key part of reducing carbon emissions. That is why, some three or four years ago, the European Union adopted targets to ensure that an increasing proportion of transport fuel comes from renewable sources. Although some criticised it at the time, that target had support across parties and from groups outside politics because it was seen as the right thing to do to try to tackle growing carbon emissions.
We now recognise more widely that the clearance of land to grow biofuels can itself cause carbon emissions, especially where it involves forests, which are part of the solution to global warming because they absorb carbon dioxide. According to one estimate, the clearance of land for biofuels could produce as much CO2 by 2020 as between 14 million and 19 million cars. A more relevant point to this debate is that land clearance is a serious obstacle to addressing the problem of food security because it can cut the amount of land available for agriculture, thereby pushing up food prices. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, that affects the UK as well as many people in developing countries.
Although there is an increasing recognition that energy from biofuels and food security are clearly interlinked issues, there is still no international or European agreement on a way forward. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that some countries, including the UK, have aimed for a 5% cap on the proportion of biofuels used in transport fuels in the EU. Other countries want a higher percentage, but at this stage there is no agreement on what it should be. However, the key principle is that biofuels must be based on genuinely sustainable sources, such as waste. Their production should not affect agriculture or the production of food for consumption. That must be the basic principle. Although they have been pushing, the Government must push much more actively for that at the EU level—I must say that I read a certain lack of priority into how the Government have dealt with biofuels at the EU level. I would be interested if the Minister could update us on EU developments on this issue.
Another point relating to biofuels, which the right hon. Member for Gordon has already mentioned, is how we can do much more by developing biofuels that come from food waste and other sources. That could also produce jobs in the UK. As well as producing biofuels from food waste, we must try to reduce food waste in the first place, as that has a major impact on the demand for food. One estimate is that 30% of food produced in the world is wasted. That clearly does not make sense from any perspective.
I want to say a few words about promoting agricultural development by small farmers in developing countries. The right hon. Gentleman was right to point out that this is not simply about small farmers being good and anything else always being bad. It is much more complex than that. Nevertheless, in many countries there are still problems with excessive land acquisition and land banking, particularly by large multinational corporations. That must be recognised. I am certainly not against private sector investment in developing countries, either from international companies or the private sector in developing countries themselves, but there are still too many examples of small farmers being forced off land that they may have cultivated for generations because they have no formal title to it or are driven off by powerful actors in the countries concerned.
One possible avenue might be for the Government to do more to support land registration efforts to assist small farmers and agricultural co-operatives, and smaller producers in negotiating and agreeing contracts with the large companies that acquire their produce. I notice with interest the recommendation from the Fairtrade Foundation—which is referred to in the Select Committee report—that companies that purchase crops from small farmers should offer to pay by instalment throughout the year, rather than in one go at harvest time. Such a simple measure could potentially make a real difference for small producers in many countries. I do not see how that could be imposed internationally through some sort of legal framework, but it is the kind of good practice that the large, responsible British company, among others, should be encouraged to adopt when dealing either directly or indirectly with small producers. That is something practical that the Government and international bodies could be encouraging.
Given that the UK will shortly be marking Fairtrade fortnight again, let me close by suggesting that the Minister and her colleagues might take this opportunity to make an announcement in response to the suggestions from the Fairtrade Foundation about how the UK could take that idea forward in the international negotiations in which she and her colleagues will be involved.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Clark. It is also an honour to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) and the Chair of the Select Committee, the right hon. Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce). I would like first to declare an interest: in Twin, of which I am a director, an organisation that has pioneered the promotion of fair trade in the UK, and in Equity for Africa, which makes social impact investments in businesses, largely in Tanzania, some of which are agricultural producers.
As the Chair of the Select Committee said, global food security concerns us all. It is not just about developing countries. It concerns us all because, as the Prime Minister has said, in a world of plenty,
“a billion people around the world do not get enough food, and undernutrition holds back the growth and development of millions of children.”
The issue also affects us right here. The right hon. Member for Gordon has already referred to what happened in 2000, when we were on the edge of a food supply crisis as a result of the fuel strike. Shortages on the other side of the world raise prices here too, and when families are living at the edge of their budgets, as many do, an increase in the price of food cannot be accommodated.
I welcome the renewed emphasis that the Government have placed on supporting agriculture throughout the developing world, including enlarging the remit of the Commonwealth Development Corporation—now called the CDC—to look again at direct investments in agriculture. The CDC was a pioneer in investing in agriculture after the second world war, and many of those investments are still very productive, employing a lot of people in developing counties. The CDC rather lost its way on the issue of agriculture 15 or 20 years ago, so I welcome the return to its roots, along with investment in infrastructure and many other areas in which it has recently become successful.
Food security must be taken more seriously by all Governments, not just those whose people live daily with the consequences of shortages. We recently saw an example, to which both previous speakers referred, of a lack of seriousness when the European Union failed to introduce a food-based biofuel cap of 5%, which I believe the Government support and that was recommended by the Select Committee. Using precious land to grow food that is then inefficiently converted into fuel costs a lot of money in subsidies and pushes up food prices globally. As the Government support the cap, I urge them to call on EU member states to do the same, and as rapidly as possible.
In 2008, the sharp rise in the price of food arising from shortages led to hunger, hardship and civil disturbances in many countries. At that time, the world managed to rouse itself from its complacency and slumber, and took some important steps. The G20 formed the agricultural market information system, which includes the G20 plus Spain and seven other major agricultural exporters and importers, and of which the UK Government are a very active supporter. It analyses data on production, consumption, prices, stocks and trade and uses that analysis to prepare short-term market forecasts, which have made a great deal of difference. It also has a rapid response force, which meets as often as is necessary—I read “annually”, but I hope it meets more often than that, as it is supposed to be a rapid response force —to discuss policy co-ordination, which is vital. Given that one reason for the food price spike in 2008 was misinformation about the level of stocks in China, the system is a significant step forward and has helped to lessen the impact of more recent crises. However, we need more than information and policy about food supplies; we need action to react to crises.
The 2011 decision by the G20 to remove export bans or special taxes for food purchased for the World Food Programme was welcome. As the report makes clear, however, the hasty imposition of export bans still happens and makes difficult situations worse. This goes slightly beyond what the report says, but I would recommend that, led by the G20 and the United Nations, the World Food Programme should put in place plans with every state in regions likely to be affected by shortages, so that if a neighbouring country faces a crisis, countries could allow food to go where it is needed—instead of closing their borders for exports—in the full and confident knowledge that the World Food Programme would immediately support them with additional stocks if necessary to avoid a crisis for their own people. Export bans are based on the fear that a country’s own people will face shortages. That fear would be unfounded if the World Food Programme had definite plans in place, together with Governments, immediately to replace those stocks.
That brings me to the contentious issue of stocks, an issue about which the international community retains its worrying complacency. Our report recognised that
“maintaining large-scale food stocks can sometimes be problematic and costly”,
but we said that we believe that
“there may be a case for judicious use of stocks to relieve the tightness of markets.”
We recommended that the Government conduct further research, in particular to consider
“under what circumstances it would be appropriate for a national government to pursue strategic stockholding for national food security purposes.”
That was a modest but important recommendation that was rejected by the Government, who perhaps misunderstood what the Committee was really suggesting. I sometimes think that Governments—I am not referring to the UK Government—should take some time to read the book of Genesis to see what Joseph did during the food crisis that affected Egypt for many years. He suggested that emergency stocks be built up, which saw the country through a long period of famine.
Our proposal was not to manage prices on a day-to-day basis, in a way that would lead to the failed grain mountains and wine lakes that the Government response implies we were suggesting; it was specifically aimed at emergencies and food security when prices rocket. Indeed, the Government’s response states:
“Evidence suggests that emergency food stocks, which do not attempt to manage prices but provide food to the most vulnerable at times of crisis, are a more effective way of improving food security outcomes in developing countries.”
That is precisely the point. I do not believe that there is such a marked dividing line between stocks for emergency purposes and stocks to relieve pressure on prices. In countries where the cost of food forms a major part of household expenditure, a sharp price rise is a food emergency, because it means that an ordinary person without much money cannot afford to buy food, which makes the situation almost like a famine, even though food is around. This is such an important matter that I ask the Government to look again at their response. Later in their response, they made a sensible reply to our recommendation about emergency food stocks. I ask the Government to combine the two responses and examine how we can improve the world’s view, and particularly the UK’s view, about the handling of food stocks.
There have been major improvements in how crises are handled locally. The World Food Programme’s purchase for progress scheme, which aims to procure much more food regionally and locally, rather than shipping it in, is eminently sensible. It supports local food producers and does not distort the market. It enables countries to continue their normal way of life while helping to tackle a local or regional problem. Cash-transfer and voucher-based schemes, such as those already referred to in Ethiopia and elsewhere, are also effective, and the Department for International Development is rightly regarded as a world leader in such schemes. I commend those who are developing and implementing those programmes.
Two decades ago, development agencies substantially withdrew from programmes supporting agriculture, particularly small-scale agriculture, and it was left to non-governmental organisations and national Governments. It was thought that agriculture was perhaps a business of the past, that the problems had been solved and that they could concentrate on other areas. That was a big mistake, so it is good to see DFID once again strongly supporting investment in agricultural research and productivity.
As the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith mentioned, the fair trade movement has made a significant contribution. Although it has concentrated on the cash crops, starting with coffee, cocoa, sugar and others, it has supported smallholder agriculture throughout the world. Let us not forget that most of the production of those smallholders is usually for their own local consumption of food crops, in addition to the cash crops that they have grown. We can rightly be, if not proud, then satisfied that the UK is now the world leader in fair trade in terms of volume of sales. It has adopted a pragmatic approach to fair trade, which is not viewed as an ideological subject, but one that promotes good quality and the interests of producers. That is why supermarkets have taken it on board. In other countries, the fair trade movement has perhaps rather shunned supermarkets and has hence deprived the smallholders of extremely large outlets for their produce. I reiterate my call for the Government to put their full weight behind Fairtrade fortnight in a few weeks’ time, because it is important that we do not lose the initiative that has driven the movement for the past 20 years to the position it now holds in this country.
We also need to recognise, as was said earlier, that smallholders do not fit into one category. They can be farmers with an acre or two, or they could have 10 or 20 hectares—in fact, we have many examples in this country that might be regarded as smallholders in developing countries around the world. They are not uniform. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon, the Chairman of the Select Committee, said, this is not just about farmers subsisting in the bush. Many of them are substantial businesswomen and businessmen in their own right; they just happen not to have large expanses of land. At the heart of the matter is the ability or confidence of farmers to know that they own their land and have the rights to it in law.
I welcome the Department’s work on land tenure and rights, which are often fragile or non-existent. In 2011, the Select Committee saw the programme in Rwanda, which has now documented almost the entire country as far as leases or freeholds are concerned. As a result, everyone owning land and the millions of small farmers—men, women and families—know that they own the land, can develop it and are not at risk of having it arbitrarily seized. In addition, if they need to develop the land and have a good business case, they can go to a local bank and secure borrowing on it to increase, we hope, their incomes. DFID has also supported such work in India, Nepal and Mozambique. I hope the Department will extend that support to other countries, because it is rapidly building up world-leading expertise in land registration for smallholders. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that this is one of the best possible uses of UK taxpayers’ money that I have seen in DFID.
There is also the question of water resources. Water is a huge problem, and helping to discover and make best use of water resources is one of the greatest gifts we can offer. I therefore welcome the work being done to help countries to identify their vast underground water resources and exploit them for the benefit of the poor. I welcome the Unlocking the Potential for Groundwater for the Poor research programme, which is supported by DFID.
Rural infrastructure—irrigation, storage and rural roads—improves both pre and post-harvest production. The International Development Committee saw that in the Congo, where a 400-km earth road financed at a relatively reasonable cost by DFID meant that a journey that used to take about five days now takes two hours. Agricultural production can therefore be brought to market in a city such as Bukavu. Previously, that would not have been possible, and produce would have rotted on the way. Infrastructure should of course largely be the responsibility of national Governments, so I am glad that the UK is now supporting the comprehensive Africa agriculture development programme. The work can be done locally, perhaps with technical support from the UK, so will the Minister update us on any progress made on that programme?
Ultimately, agriculture is a business and a livelihood—something that brings in an income for hundreds of millions of people around the world. It is perhaps the business or livelihood in which more people are employed around the world than any other. That is why—given that over the next decade, according to some figures, we will have to create 1 billion new jobs globally, both to tackle current unemployment and for the new entrants into the labour market—agriculture is vital, because agriculture creates jobs effectively. In terms of investment, it is one of the most productive means of job creation.
I welcome the new FoodTrade initiative announced last year, which boosts UK investment in African regional staple food markets. Again, that could play a significant role. Will the Minister update us on how that is going? It is important that such initiatives, once launched—sometimes with great publicity—are followed through and are not left on one side, as can be the case on occasion.
Time and time again, speakers in previous debates have brought up the question of world trade in food products, which must open up. It is a great disadvantage to developing countries that their products do not have proper access—certainly not duty-free access—to many of the world’s richest markets. That is simply not acceptable in the modern world. By opening up the markets, we would see developing countries, which have a huge competitive advantage in agriculture, able to exploit that competitive advantage much better than they can at present, creating jobs, wealth and incomes for their people.
Climate change was touched on in our report. We did not have the time, space or, indeed, remit to go further than to say not only that it impacts upon food security, but that agriculture can make a massive contribution. On the one hand, I have seen for myself the effect of climate change on crop production—changes in the types of crop that can be grown, sometimes to the detriment of crop volume and productivity. On the other hand, agro-forestry can make a huge contribution to the world, although we do not place quite enough emphasis on it at the moment. Many countries are beginning to look into it as a means of job creation, resisting and countering climate change, and encouraging carbon sequestration.
Compared with a decade ago, and certainly two decades ago, the seriousness with which DFID and others treat agriculture has increased remarkably. That is welcome, but it comes not a moment too soon. A couple of hundred years ago, Malthus was wrong in his predictions, because the world woke up to the importance of improving productivity, investing in research and cutting protectionism. We can still prove the Malthusians wrong again, but only by doing the same: by investing in research to improve productivity and by cutting protectionism. DFID is doing a lot, if not most of that. It is not doing all of it—I have pointed out areas where there must be improvement—but it is doing most of it. I urge the Minister to keep going in the right direction.
I am pleased to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Clark. I am also pleased to speak in today’s important debate on the International Development Committee’s report on global food security. The Committee put a lot of work into this comprehensive report, responding to the call to act on increasing worries about global food security, about which the public are concerned.
In the early autumn, for a whole afternoon and early evening—five or six hours—I led a debate with the Bishop of Derby in Derby cathedral about the IF campaign and global food security. The former Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), also came along and talked about food security. The debate was well attended, which shows that people out there are concerned, in particular about the taxpayers’ money spent on international development, because they want it to be used effectively. In this case, we can use it effectively.
The need for immediate action was put beyond doubt after average global food prices hit an all-time high in 2011. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, the three main reasons for the increases were biofuel production, commodity trading and climate change.
Having visited various African countries, I am especially concerned that land grabbing by the private sector for the growing of biofuels, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, could cause food crises due to the unavailability of land for food crops. Nevertheless, I feel that the recommendations made by the report provide a pragmatic and sustainable solution to the situation. The Government have not fully accepted or agreed with the recommendation made by the report to put in place a cap on the level of food-based biofuel that can count towards the provisions of the European Union’s renewable energy directive, but I am confident that consensus can eventually be reached.
I am also encouraged that the European Parliament has voted on the incorporation of indirect land use change factors into the directive. The directive, if accepted by the Government after discussions, combined with the revision of the UK renewable transport fuel obligation to exclude agriculturally produced biofuel, as recommended by the report, will ensure that land grabbing is kept to a minimum and that local people are able to feed themselves and their families for years to come.
I am in particular pleased at the news that the Government have agreed with the Committee’s report on the need to improve rural infrastructure to ensure global food security. I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has launched a new challenge fund window for private companies willing to invest in eastern and southern African staple food markets.
The Government will also offer grants to companies that seek to invest in storage and collateral systems; my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce) mentioned storage, refrigerated vehicles and cold storage, which are problems particularly in parts of Africa with little electricity. Perhaps we could encourage solar energy technology companies to invest in such areas in Africa to help. They have so much more sunshine than we have here, and we are heavily investing in solar power, so there is no reason why they should not. The more people who use it, the cheaper it will become for them.
The Government also hope to invest in import markets and co-ordination and information systems in markets. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) mentioned roads going in. I am pleased to see that happening. Roads open up markets and make it easier for people to get their produce to market. I am also pleased that mobile phone technology is helping people in African countries to find the best markets and the best prices for their food.
Some encouraging things are going on in different countries. What DFID does well is to take best practice from country to country and help people improve their techniques. DFID’s plans will help encourage food production and save thousands of people, not just from starvation but from malnutrition and undernourishment. It will also ensure that countries and farmers have the resources to build their own rural economies and help the global community reach the UN’s post-2015 millennium development goal of halving global poverty.
I would like to share one example with the Minister. When we were in Ethiopia, I went to meet a British glove manufacturer from the south-west that has always invested in Ethiopian sheep pelts for its gloves. It has now built a factory in Ethiopia and is manufacturing gloves over there, but the farmers there have stopped dipping their sheep. As a result, the sheep get various infestations that cause holes in the pelts, which means that the pelts are not of such good quality.
The company was umming and ahhing about what to do. Its core business is glove manufacturing, but it felt that if it could set up a model farm and train the local farmers to dip their sheep, they would not produce flawed pelts with holes. Not only that, but if they showed them how to let the rams in only at certain times of the year, as we do—so that when the lambs are born they have plenty to eat—they would get bigger lambs, bigger sheep, bigger pelts and more meat to share. That is the sort of lateral thinking that we can encourage. Maybe DFID should consider how it can operate model farms to show farmers how best to do such things.
Alternatively, because I believe that a lot of farmers in many countries need better education about farming practices, maybe we should be encouraging agricultural colleges to set up branches abroad or get people to come here to learn more about agriculture. However, it would be better for people to learn in their own countries, because we do not have to deal with the same climates or water shortages as they do in African countries. If farmers could be taught to use fertilisers and much better farming methods, including irrigation, we could help improve farming practices throughout the continent, which would inevitably improve productivity, which other hon. Members have discussed.
Another problem, discussed by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford, is land tenure in Rwanda. We saw on our visit that Rwanda has a problem. It has allowed people to build all over the place, so that buildings are dotted about, meaning that there are no large amounts of land for people to cultivate, but lots of smallholdings. Until such countries have better planning laws, they cannot have large farms; they can only have various sizes of smallholding. Maybe some education could be delivered, or work done with Governments of other countries, to improve planning laws so that buildings are not built all over the place. Countryside is lost when that happens, and there should be better ways of planning for the future.
The report’s recommendations are clearly having an effect on Government policy. I am particularly encouraged by the partial consensus in the Government response that the UK will do its utmost in its role in Europe to promote the food security interests of less economically developed countries. I am hopeful that the International Development Committee will continue to be effective in dealing with that important issue in future. As hon. Members have said, we will have to produce much more food for the world. The land is there; we just need better technologies. We are well placed to help developing countries to produce more and better food.
I should perhaps declare an interest. I am involved with a charity in this country called Free the Children, which works internationally. It talks about adopting a village and does health and education work, but it also spends a lot of time teaching children in schools how to grow crops, so they can then go back and teach their parents. Free the Children shows them how to use water and fertiliser, and what happens if they are not used appropriately, so they can take the technology back to their parents, who can see that they get much more crop yield per acre or hectare than if they did not use that technology.
There are ways for us to be innovative, as Free the Children has been, by working with schoolchildren, as well as with our agricultural colleges working out there. We can also encourage British and European businesses investing in developing countries to think laterally and consider how they can help by setting up model farms and demonstrating ways to do things, so that best practice is spread as quickly as possible. Everything is very good, but it is all fairly small-scale. It needs to be much more rapid if we are to satisfy the world’s needs in the next 25 years.
It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Clark. It has been a pleasure to hear all the contributions from hon. Members. This debate has been postponed several times, which is no reflection on its importance. It was postponed once to accommodate the commemorations of the life of President Mandela. However, it is right that we now have the chance to discuss the report, which deals with the vital issue of food security. As others have said, the issue has impact both here at home and abroad. I am often struck by how many policy issues that we think affect people far away are, at heart, the self-same ones of public policy that we grapple with week in, week out in the House of Commons.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations estimates that about 842 million people, or one in eight of the global population, suffer from chronic hunger. Although the global trend of hunger is, thankfully, downwards, all too frequently there is a lack of resilience in food supply, which can put millions of people at risk of tipping into hunger as a result of external influences, whether due to a spike in food prices, as the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) mentioned, to climate change or to conflict. It is worth noting that 1.3 million people in the Central African Republic, for example, are now at risk of hunger—that is a huge number; 40% of the country’s population—as a result of the ongoing internal conflict there.
As this debate has shown, food security is a desperately important issue. As we have heard, it is connected to infrastructure problems and to people’s income and position in society. I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Stafford correctly judging Malthus as wrong. Malthus made a mistake; he forgot—or did not know or work out—that we would use technology to meet the challenge presented by the world’s finite resources as the population grows. That is what we have done down the years: it was true at the time of the industrial revolution, which changed where people lived and how food was produced, and is true today for Africa and other countries around the world. It is sometimes frustrating to hear people repeat as common-or-garden knowledge the idea that there is only so much space on the planet, so there can only be so many people, and that the problem is countries with growing populations. Those people make the self-same mistake as good old Reverend Malthus did all those years ago. We ought not to forget that our responsibility is to support the development of infrastructure and technology, rather than spreading doom and gloom about the inevitability of food insecurity.
The Committee’s report is welcome and wide-ranging. It demonstrates not only the urgency of tackling food security issues but the breadth of policy areas, both international and domestic—from transport policy to food waste, from social protection to co-operatives and climate change—that have an impact on ensuring that food resources are used sensibly and sustainably and are distributed globally in an equitable fashion. We heard something of the breadth of the report from the Chair of the Select Committee earlier.
The report rightly emphasises the impact of the two major recent food price spikes, in 2008 and 2011. The 2008 spike in particular caused a stagnation in the fight against global hunger and significantly set back efforts to meet the millennium development goals. The spikes demonstrate clearly the increasing volatility of food prices in an era of lower food stocks and a tighter balance between supply and demand. I encourage the Minister to speak with her colleagues in the Treasury if possible to investigate the impact that commodities trading has had on food prices. It is another symptom of the fight about financial services regulation—a fight that must continue—that the ever more complex products being bought and sold cause prices to become disconnected from fundamentals.
The Committee is also right to take a strong position on the impact of biofuels on food prices and supply, by concluding that the increasing use of agriculturally produced biofuels is driving up food prices and increasing their volatility. By using land that could be feeding the world’s poorest, the growth of those fuels makes the fight against global hunger far harder. Further, the report rightly notes that their use is potentially even more environmentally damaging than the use of fossil fuels—a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz). The report makes a strong case for a revision to the renewable transport fuel obligation’s equivalent target for biofuels in transport fuel volumes, to disincentivise the use of agriculturally produced biofuels. The Government’s response to that recommendation is disappointingly non-committal and appears to play down the impact of biofuels on food prices. When winding up, will the Minister commit the Government to revising the RTFO, or at least set out a timeline for doing so?
Further, the report urges Ministers to push for the EU to revise the renewable energy directive, or RED, to cap use of food-based biofuels and stop those fuels counting towards the RED target. There was a difference of opinion between the Commission and the recently ended Lithuanian presidency over whether the cap should be set at 5% or 7%. What discussions have Ministers had with EU counterparts recently on revising the RED and where do the Government stand on the level of the cap?
It is disappointing that the Government reject, out of hand, the Committee’s recommendations for statutory targets and sanctions for the reduction of food waste, which although declining still stands at over 20% at a household level in the UK. Is there a point at which the Government would consider waste to be unacceptably high and, as a result, reconsider their position? Food waste reduction is an important challenge that does not always receive the attention that it deserves. We could all shine a light on that issue.
It is encouraging that the report calls for greater support for farmer organisations and co-operatives in developing nations, to help strengthen small farmers’ bargaining positions with large corporations. In particular, it calls for support to assist women and marginalised farmers. Although Ministers have not rejected those proposals, their response, particularly on co-operatives, feels lukewarm at best and makes no proposal to expand support for such organisations. Worryingly, the response fails to mention the positive impact of co-operatives for women and marginalised farmers. Will the Minister give some practical examples of how DFID is supporting farmer co-operatives and set out how the Department intends to expand that work? Again, the way that co-operatives can help to support food production and equitable distribution of its rewards is a lesson that we have learnt in this country.
Both the hon. Member for Stafford and my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh North and Leith mentioned the importance of Fairtrade, with Fairtrade fortnight coming up. My hon. Friend made a specific recommendation about payment in instalments. Will the Minister comment on that?
As the hon. Member for Stafford mentioned, the Committee’s modest recommendation that the Government undertake further research into how small-scale, judicious use of food stocks could act as a buffer to some of the worst impacts of food price volatility seems to have met somewhat of a brick wall in the Government’s response. The idea that we should go back to the common agricultural policy is a bit of a straw-man argument. There is potential value in smaller-scale food stocks for poorer nations. Perhaps Ministers should have a think about their approach to that issue.
The report rightly argues that social protection schemes have a vital role in protecting the food security of the poorest, but Ministers’ ambitions seem to be a bit limited. Fundamentally, two things stop people starving: money in their pockets and food in the shops that they can afford to buy. We have systems of social protection in place in this country, and countries as diverse as Liberia and Brazil and south American countries have been investigating building up such systems. Social protections inevitably mean that food price spikes are less catastrophic for the poorest. The report notes that DFID plans to support social protection schemes in only 14 of the 29 countries where it has bilateral programmes. The Government response to the report states:
“It is important that DFID does not move ahead of local political and practical reality in seeking to support social protection programmes.”
That does not feel like an ambitious commitment. Will the Minister set out whether she sees DFID as having an activist role as an advocate for and supporter of social protection schemes, whether they are governmental or community-based?
This report once again reminds us that development issues do not exist in a vacuum. Our domestic policies on a wide range of areas can feed into food insecurity issues overseas. It works the other way round, too: food price spikes, speculation and insecurity of supply impact on our constituents as well, as they struggle with the cost of living crisis. The Select Committee has made some very worthwhile suggestions on how the British Government could step up their efforts across the board to tackle food insecurity. Unfortunately, in certain cases, the Government’s response seems lukewarm. However, I hope that through today’s debate and the Committee’s good efforts in its report, we can bring a greater focus on the important issue of food security.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Clark. I welcome this opportunity to speak on behalf of the Department for International Development in response to the debate on the report of the International Development Committee about global food security.
The report was warmly welcomed by my Department. It addresses an area of critical concern, as many Members have mentioned, and I congratulate all hon. Members on their contributions today. There has been a lot of wisdom in the speeches from the Committee members and Opposition Members about this critical issue. It is critical because feeding a growing human population sustainably into the future, in the face of climate change and resource depletion, is challenging. In a world where 842 million people go to bed hungry and 26% of the world’s children suffer from stunting due to malnutrition, an equally difficult challenge to address, it is vital to ensure that the UK’s aid and development efforts are effective in making a difference.
I want to address as many as possible of the points raised, and to make some of my own. The report was studied closely in DFID and other Departments, including the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Transport. The Government’s response combined all those perspectives and departmental priorities.
My opposite number, the hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern), said that we are lukewarm, but I do not agree. The Government agree or partially agree with 33 of the 39 recommendations in the report and that is not a bad response to a report with so many recommendations. Everyone wants DFID to do everything, which is one of the challenges that we must try to accommodate.
We disagree with only two recommendations. I will go into them in more detail, but one was food waste, and DEFRA noted that voluntary controls rather than mandatory targets work best in reducing waste. On the recommendation on strategic food stocks, the Government believe that functioning markets rather than Government intervention are a better way to manage food stocks. I will address that fully in a moment.
In areas where my Department leads, the report addresses food and nutrition security, focusing on production, the role of smallholder farmers, reducing waste and loss in the food system and providing social safety nets for the most vulnerable people. Hon. Members raised those points, and DFID already prioritises all of them. The report also tackles more contentious areas, including using food crops to produce biofuels, which I will come to in a moment and which was raised by many, if not all, hon. Members, and the role of genetic modification in meeting yield gaps—especially in challenging natural environments, an issue that was not raised during the debate.
The growing potential of the private sector is recognised and the report reflects on how this sector may become a hugely more significant player in securing food security goals, particularly by working more closely with smallholder and commercial farmers, which is an area of great expansion in DFID’s work. We recognise that food security is as much about the quality of food as having enough to eat. Stunting is a critical issue to address because it is the future of the nation. If 20% of children in a country, or even up to 50%, are stunted, the future of that country is in jeopardy because it cannot achieve the necessary skills base.
The UK is scaling up nutrition programmes in more than 10 countries. In Bangladesh, for example, my Department is integrating the delivery of vitamins, minerals and other nutritional support into three existing programmes that tackle extreme poverty. Those interventions will reach 243,000 adolescent girls, 103,500 pregnant women and 225,000 children under five.
I was marginally upset that no one referred to the Nutrition for Growth event, which was a great step forward and indicated our seriousness about tackling nutrition and global food security. Food alone is not enough to ensure the future of nations. At the event, DFID gave a commitment to triple investment in nutrition-specific programmes between 2013 and 2020, which will reduce stunting by 20 million by 2020 and save the lives of at least 1.7 million children.
On emergency assistance, DFID is not abandoning commitments to continue to provide assistance to the most vulnerable and impoverished countries, including those affected by recent crises such as Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and victims of the ongoing conflict in Syria. These responses will continue to include emergency assistance that may, when necessary, include direct provision of food aid and, when appropriate, cash transfers rather than food aid to allow disaster victims to purchase food when food availability is not the problem and available cash is the bigger issue. Access to food is an issue and when it is available locally, it is much better to enable people to purchase the food rather than simply giving it to them.
In some areas, progress has been more difficult. The Government have repeatedly stated that in relation to investment in biofuels in developing countries, food production must always take precedence over the production of energy from food crops. However, we are legally bound under the EU renewable energy directive to our commitment to source 15% of our overall energy, and 10% of the energy used in transport, from renewable sources by 2020.
As many hon. Members mentioned, the UK is, thankfully, the most progressive EU member state in addressing the developmental and food security impact of biofuel development. We actively lobby in Europe to minimise that impact. However, it is recognised that many member states do not see eye to eye with us on this issue. Securing strong political alliances with like-minded EU Governments is essential. The UK’s present position is not shared by a majority of states and we continue to make our case forcefully. Balancing legitimate business and investment concerns against the impact on the food security of some of the poorest people in the world is essential.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) said she was confident that we could make progress on biofuels, but I do not totally share her confidence. EU members are not in line on this because there is a conflict between two goods. The hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) referred to the EU renewable energy directive versus the use of land and inappropriate production of biofuels that could impact on global food security.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will wait a moment. My view is that we must start to think about 2020, which will be the end of the current target period to which we have signed up and which we cannot get out of. We must negotiate so that the onus is not on us and we can talk about fuel from waste and not from land that could be used for growing food.
All the comments from all hon. Members are important. There is an issue and we must drive harder at it. We will continue to press the EU, but we cannot control the issue so I want to lay plans in advance, if there is no change up to 2020, so that we are ready then to force through a change.
I thank my hon. Friend for explaining the position. It is as well to be up front and honest. The problem is not the Government’s position, but our partners’. However, too often the EU and sometimes our own Government do not look at the joined-up impact of some policies. The challenge is that if the EU really does care about poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, it should be prepared to re-examine its own policies and not put its commercial interests at the top of the list. The same applies to CAP reform. The Minister would have the support of my Committee if she argued that case energetically and tried to win support, but I accept that she is in a difficult position.
I thank my right hon. Friend. I could not agree more. I am simply being open and straightforward about the challenge that lies ahead. I am not saying that we will not tackle it and strive with European colleagues to change it before 2020, but I do not want to get to 2020 without having put in the work to ensure that if that is the point at which we have the opportunity to change, we have made enough allowances to make that change. It is the fall-back position.
One area where perhaps the IDC report did not give a sufficiently strong emphasis is one that is close my heart: the status and economic empowerment of women and girls. Women and girls benefit most from efforts to strengthen people’s food and nutrition security and to make them resilient to stresses and shocks. DFID recognises that as a high priority and is committing more time and resources to working with corporations and Governments globally to ensure that women and girls equally benefit from new investment opportunities in agriculture, as entrepreneurs and at a household level.
For example, the new DFID-supported Propcom Mai-karfi programme aims to raise incomes by up to 50% for more than half a million people in northern Nigeria, half of whom are women. That speaks to something else that Members raised, which was the improved productivity from agriculture. DFID puts an enormous amount of energy into that. I think we call it “stepping up”, so that everyone improves their income and their productivity through their actions.
I am coming to that. I have a whole list of points to get through. My right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Sir Malcolm Bruce) asked why it was that only 14 countries are in the programmes when there are 29 DFID countries. I hope to get to that.
The Government believe that functioning markets are a better way to manage food stocks than Government interventions. The hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) made a number of points that went above and beyond the recommendations made in the report. One idea he mentioned was the World Food Programme holding universal stocks to improve availability. He also mentioned involving neighbouring countries and so on. As he said, those ideas go beyond the report’s recommendations. The evidence we have is that universal stocks are not the most effective use of money.
I will not return to the cap as an example, because it is clear that Members did not favour that view, but Malawi, for example, has recently had food shortages. They hold stocks, but when push came to shove and they looked at their grain stock reserve, it was not as high as they thought. Much of it had disappeared. There are a number of issues outside of simply whether stocks are held for emergencies. We do not have the evidence to say that that proposal is an effective use of money, but my experience is that a whole range of unintended consequences come from stockholding.
I fully understand what the Minister is saying and agree that this is not an easy area. We received evidence from the deputy director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation. He said:
“The experience of the price spike and the impact of that in various countries related in large measure, in India and China in particular, to the ability to cushion the impact on their population by providing access to food at a lower price because of their grain reserve policies. Certainly in the 2008–09 experience, the impact on poor consumers in India and China was much less than it was in countries in Africa, for example, without the same capacity to do that.”
That is the basis of what we were saying.
I understand that there are differing views, but DFID does not have sufficient evidence and the evidence that we do have shows that attempts by Governments to manage price levels through public stockholding have not been effective in achieving food security objectives. For the moment, we will have to differ on this issue.
The issue of targets for food waste was mentioned. Our experience shows that the voluntary approach is effective and has allowed businesses to reduce waste and become more efficient. The hon. Member for Wirral South asked at what level we would change that. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has worked successfully with industry on a voluntary basis through the Courtauld commitment to reduce supply chain food and packaging waste by 7.4% over the past three years. Household waste is down by even more: 15% since 2007. Our approach is having an effect and there is not an ultimate target where we will suddenly change horses. We agree that waste is a big issue and we are working through these voluntary mechanisms, which appear to be working.
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I will not, because I want to give a couple of minutes to the Select Committee Chair at the end and I have a huge number of points to get through.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon asked about the scaling up of safety nets, as did the hon. Member for Wirral South. DFID is more than doubling the number of countries where it supports social protection programmes. We had seven countries in 2009 and we will reach 15 in 2014. It may be that that support is the answer everywhere, but with the best will in the world we cannot scale it up on our own without the mother countries agreeing with us, and not just in policy terms. Even with 0.7% of GDP spent on aid, we do not have infinite funds to do everything in every country without research and without working with mother country Governments.
We will continue to support such programmes. We think that they are excellent and are demonstrating great benefits. We use evidence of that, where appropriate, in conversation with Governments that are new to the idea of social protection. I have been to some countries that do not want these protection programmes introduced. We disagree with that, but we are not a colonial institution that says, “You must have this.” We try to demonstrate the evidence of how successful and useful the programmes are and how they work in those countries.
No, because I will not get through any of these points if I do.
On the Government’s support for the Fairtrade Foundation, we absolutely recognise the important work that it does to promote smallholder access to global markets. We welcome the attention it has brought to finance for small-scale farmers. The UK provides core funding to the foundation and we look forward to working with them and discussing the Committee’s recommendations.
On meat, the key to a healthy diet is getting the balance right. That means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions. Red meat can form part of a healthy diet and is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, such as zinc and B vitamins. It is also one of the main sources of vitamin B12.
However, not all meat is good. Some meats are high in fat, especially saturated fat. I think it was the right hon. Member for Gordon who mentioned UK farmers. Encouraging people in the UK to eat less and to eat more healthily would not impact on UK farmers. UK commodity prices follow those in the wider international market, so trade flows would adjust. That, at least, is the evidence we have. The fortunes of UK producers are more dependent on their competitiveness within the wider market.
I am glad that the work that DFID does on land and property rights has been recognised. We have signed a new agreement with Ethiopia to go the same way as we have with Rwanda. We are scaling up our land programmes in at least six other countries and we intend to continue our partnerships.
I make a grateful nod in the direction of the Chair of the Select Committee for his recognition of our work on beekeeping. The “World at One” bumped me on Christmas eve, when I was going to expand on our international work on beekeeping. The weather in Britain took precedence.
I am sorry that I have not spoken to all the points, but, to conclude, my Department is working with international partners to prepare for the next series of international development goals after the millennium development goals. The IDC report helps my Department to remain challenged, focused and a world leader in international development policy and practice. I thank the International Development Committee for its continued engagement with the work of DFID and its insightful and useful observations and recommendations, and I thank all Members here today.
I thank the Minister for that reply. The Committee agrees that the Department does great work and that we are working in the right direction on pretty much everything. I welcome her update on the commitment on nutrition. We welcome Nutrition for Growth, and I am sorry we did not mention it in the debate. We are well aware that women make up the majority of farmers, but perhaps we should have made that more explicit.
We would still like more engagement on the social transfers, particularly for urban food problems, recognising that the Bolsa Familia programme in Brazil was a radical way of delivering poverty reduction. I accept that we cannot impose social transfers, but we still think that the issue has a lot of mileage. I welcome the Minister’s response to our report.
Question put and agreed to.