Poverty lies at the root of hunger, and active state policies directed at eradicating inequality are the most effective way to eradicate malnutrition, Argentina President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has said.
Addressing delegates at the Food and Agriculture, FAO’ biannual conference in Rome, she said “those who suffer hunger are those who can’t afford to buy food, and so we believe we must focus on that aspect”.
In a broad address, Kirchner also called for active state intervention aimed at dismantling trade and customs tariffs and barriers on global food trade, coupled with stricter regulations on financial instruments linked to agricultural commodities to prevent speculation.
Argentina is a major food exporter, which Kirchner noted has the capacity to produce food for more than 400 million people, 10 times its population.
The president also said she expected this year’s core grain harvest to break new records.
“But distribution, not production, holds the key to tackling malnutrition in the world, she said, adding “We really believe that the problem of hunger lies in the unequal distribution of wealth”.
Kirchner recounted target programs rolled out by her governments and that of her husband, which came to power after an economic crisis in 2003 pushed 40 percent of the population into poverty.
A national food program was launched immediately, followed by a push to create industrial jobs with robust minimum wages, and then in 2009 a universal child benefit scheme for more than 3 million youths and their families, whose total cost is around 0.5 percent of gross domestic product.
FAO advocates such social-protection schemes as a key part in the fight against hunger, noting their critical role in countries that achieved the Millennium Development Goal of halving malnutrition rates over the past two decades.
Kirchner pointed out that the public spending program generated huge demand which catalyzed further growth. “We’ve become one of the most egalitarian societies in this way,” she claimed.
Kirchner suggested that developing nations focus on investment in basic infrastructure such as clean water and sewage systems, without which public health systems are less effective.
Agricultural policies should aim at improving production efficiency but protectionist tendencies don’t help food security, Kirchner said, claiming that wealthy nations often use high tariffs and questionable health regulations are used to block Argentine exports.
Before the speech, FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva commended Kirchner for Argentina’s outstanding progress in fighting hunger.
The prevalence of undernourishment in Argentina is below 5 percent of the population, according to latest State of Food Insecurity in the World, released last month.

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