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PETER ENGELKE: Well, good morning, everyone. I hope we’ve all had a productive and enjoyable conversation this morning. I know I’ve learned a lot myself.
As stated, my name is Peter Engelke. I’m with the Atlantic Council, and we’re going to be exploring on this panel for the next 45 minutes the state of global food security—not a small—not a small topic, but really looking into what we consider to be the primary challenges facing the world when it comes to the question of food security and beginning to explore some of the solution sets as well.
So joining me on the stage I have an illustrious panel, and—of experts and officials who really run a gamut, I think, both geographically and in terms of their areas of expertise, and I’d like to introduce them for you.
So to my left is Ambassador Vasyl Hamianin, who is the ambassador of Ukraine to the Republic of Indonesia. Welcome, sir.
AMBASSADOR VASYL HAMIANIN: Thank you.
PETER ENGELKE: To his left is Bo Holmgreen, who is the founder and CEO of Scholars of Sustenance, which is an organization focused on food waste in Southeast Asia and also here in Indonesia.
Then we have—then we have Dr. Michał Kurtyka, who is the former minister of Climate and Environment for Poland, and I believe you are also a brand-new non-resident senior fellow at the Global Energy Center, which is a sister center here at the Atlantic Council. And I would like personally to welcome you to the Atlantic Council family.
MICHAŁ KURTYKA: Thank you.
PETER ENGELKE: And then to his left we have Guy Margalith, who is the principal deputy foreign policy advisor at US Indo-Pacific Command.
And then at the end today we have Laksmi Prasvita—I hope I did that correctly—who is the head of Communications, Public Affairs, Science, and Sustainability, for Bayer Indonesia. Welcome.
LAKSMI PRASVITA: Thank you.
PETER ENGELKE: And then I see that we do in fact have on screen, joining us virtually, is Maria Teresa Nogales, who is the founder and executive director of Fundacion Alternativas, which is located in Bolivia. And so there she is right there, yes. M.T., can you hear us?
MARIA TERESA NOGALES: I can. Good morning.
PETER ENGELKE: Welcome. Well, welcome to you all.
So as I said before, we only have—unfortunately—45 minutes for this incredibly important conversation, and really a diverse set of perspectives we’re going to be hearing from this morning. So let’s get into the—into the questions.
So really what I want to do first is ask all of you to answer the same question if you will, which is basically—specifically I should say—what do you see as the most pressing current challenges to global food security? A big question, and if you can all find a way to squeeze your answer into a couple of minutes if you can.
So, Ambassador, to you first, please.
AMBASSADOR VASYL HAMIANIN: Thank you very much. It’s a great honor to be here and to speak to the gathering. Thank you.
Well, it will be a difficult task to answer it within two minutes, but I’ll try.
PETER ENGELKE: Sure.
AMBASSADOR VASYL HAMIANIN: So I would not be repeating what is going on in the food security globally but because we had a lot of speakers, we know what happens actually. But I would say that the biggest challenge in food security issue is that we should watch it and receive it as a complex. That’s very important because food security is not just about a grain going from somewhere to somewhere. It’s not just one link; it’s a complex of problems that—coming from the seeds and then, you know, diesel fuel, and then chemicals, and then fertilizers, then labor force, et cetera, et cetera. And after that is trade and logistics.
So now when one link is undermined, then everything else is undermined, too, and now food security is in grave danger, so we—main thing I would say that we have to view this as a complex problem. And to deal with this problem it’s very important to go through a few stages like first thing is to see the roots—what is the root of the problem?
Now—when we are talking about Ukraine, right, because there are many other factors, but Ukraine—as people used to say, war in Ukraine, we identify the root as war in Ukraine. Next stage is to recognize it and on this stage of recognition, I think we have to speak very bravely. It takes a lot of courage to identify this, to acknowledge that this is Russian aggression against Ukraine, so we are not dealing with the war in Ukraine; we’re not dealing with Ukraine basically. The subject is Russia.
Third, we have to identify the instruments how to deal with this, how—basically how to deal with Russia, with Russian aggression, with the regime that made it possible. And the last one, to take action. So basically this is the algorithm, and I think the world is stuck on the—well, globally, stuck on this second stage of acknowledgement that, you know, it’s not a conflict in Ukraine; it’s a Ukrainian crisis. It’s not like war in Ukraine, like nameless war in Ukraine. But it’s Russian aggression against Ukraine. See the roots, cut the roots, cure the disease.
Second one, this problem is accumulative. What I mean is that it’s like a traffic jam. It takes ten minutes to get a jam, and then it takes like one hour to get it, you know, resolved.
So to mitigate the consequences of the food crisis, it will take maybe months, maybe years after what happens. And every day, every week of the aggression will get one month, two month, maybe years to get it resolved. So we have to look at it globally, we have to be responsible, and we have to be very much courageous and brave to acknowledge—to say, A—what is A? A. What is B? B. So a very important thing is that the world should unite to face it.
It’s not a good thing to deal with 50 crises at the same time. It’s like, you know, pouring the water from the spoon onto the fire when you can use the fire extinguisher and just extinguish the fire in a couple of minutes. So rather than to deal with 50 different problems—food security, logistics security, energy security, whatever it is—we would rather deal with one problem, and the name we know. It’s a Moscow fascist regime.
So basically I would say that if we are united we are stronger. If we are united we can resolve everything, and I would say that in this situation we can—like a global community, be a global community, be leaders, and use the rule of law rather than rule of force.
Last one—just last one. I personally don’t understand why and how it happened that a little man confronts the 10 billion of the global population, and everybody is trying to say that, well, everybody is afraid of this man. I mean, he is one, and we are the global community.
Thank you very much.
PETER ENGELKE: Thank you, Ambassador.
So Bo, same question to you.
BO HOLMGREEN: Yes.
PETER ENGELKE: You work in this region of the world. From your perspective here, how do you see sort of the—what do you think is the most important or most pressing challenge related to food security from the perspective of your work?
BO HOLMGREEN: Well, I come at it from a different way. We have spent a lot of time—I’m an engineer, so I use a lot of statistics to focus us. And basically in 2016 we analyzed the entire farm-to-fork concept, and we decided the best place we could have the biggest impact on food security right now—and fastest—was by going—when it falls off the fork—food waste, right? And in fact, we cannot rescue what’s on the fork, so it’s right before—it’s everything that doesn’t go on the fork, from supermarkets, and hotels, and so on. We rescue that, inspect it, get it safely in our cool chain technology to people.
But what we found then and what focused us so much was stunning. There were two facts that made us go, why we do this and where we did it. And the first one was—we back then called it 10-7-1, but now it’s 10-8-1 that tells you how fast it goes, and I totally admired General Clark yesterday for the observation on going from two billion to eight billion people, and we can still make food. But the best part of it is we are indeed almost eight billion people in the world, but today this fantastic food supply chain makes more than enough food—actually more than enough food for 10-plus billion people.
So you would think with all that extra food that everything would be good. Yet eight billion people, more than 10 billion food, one billion of us goes to bed hungry every night. So we simply have a distribution problem, and that is best seen in the old adage—you have heard this a million times—don’t give people fish; teach them how to fish.
Well, our slant on that is that’s true, but until then, let’s at least eat the fish that’s already out of the ocean. And that’s where we come from. So we need to simply fix this distribution problem, right? We have a very high level—we call it food equity where we hope one day to change access to good nutrition to not be based on just money in your hand, but also based on desperation and need. So we have to go to a better way of looking at our food supply chain because there is enough of it.
The other reason why we are now doing it in Southeast Asia is that more people in Southeast Asia than anywhere else in the world is coming out of poverty into middle class, and what happens then? Then they will start throwing the same amount of food away. And sadly, that food waste is just going to explode.
So we came to Asia for that purpose, and if we can rescue all that food waste from those who are now in the middle class and get it to the still poor people, then we are getting the nutrition cycle around. And the whole reason for doing it is not just for food and getting food to people, and so on, but it is the circular economy, and get the circular economy going, especially in countries like here, and Thailand, and Philippines. It’s immensely exciting because the populations are so huge, and if you can get the circular economy to work, we can go very far.
And then, of course, the final thing is that every kilo of food that would have been thrown away—because we are focused only on surplus food—every kilo of surplus food that doesn’t go to the landfill will not create methane gases, and will not hurt the environment so, you know, again, being an engineer, we measure everything down to the CO2 kilos that we save the world for, and so on—and emissions.
PETER ENGELKE: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Bo.
Same question—easy question to ask; hard one to answer. But do you have a top-line answer to the question what are the—how do you see the most pressing challenge facing the world when it comes to food?
MICHAŁ KURTYKA: Thank you very much.
And let me get a little bit earlier in our history. In 1709, 600,000 French people died out of starvation. Eighteenth century; it’s basically a climate change but the other way around. The temperatures actually declined, and so there was less and less food available. And in 1783—to be more exact, the 6th of June 1783, a volcano erupted in Iceland. Twenty percent of people died of starvation in the following year, and then all hunger spread over Europe, and many historians right now consider that one of the main element, trigger of French Revolution, was this problem.
But interestingly, on the 5th of October 1789, when people in Paris ran to Versailles, it was not because they lacked food, but because they have learned that the day before in Versailles there was a sumptuous banquet, and so what was the problem? It was inequalities.
And so we are right now facing a world which is entering into a period of chaos, and inequalities will be playing a very—difficult tricks to us. And we must foresee a world in which—there could be a domino effect, you know—starvation, social disorder, political problems.
And let me right now take my hat off—COP24 president—so I was presiding over climate summit in Katowice in 2018, operationalizing the Paris Agreement. And I right now come back from Sharm El Sheikh where COP27 is happening. And so let me put my environment and energy hat and add to that, that in today’s intertwined world—and thank you very much, ambassador from Ukraine for reminding us that Russian aggression against Ukraine is sending tectonic waves on the world in terms of energy prices, gas prices, food prices, inflation, insecurity. That’s an important element.
But the other important element is the equivalent of volcano erupting in Iceland in 1783—today’s energy technologies. They are polluting, they are not preserving water, pesticide, plastics—all that is making us living in an intertwined world, and what is going on in Ukraine is impacting Indonesia; what is going on in Indonesia is impacting the US.
So we must tackle this problem together, and that’s the challenge: how to tackle insecurities of today’s world all together, and then how to build a world in which we will be having a different set of values. The growth will not be based only on the push of—if I may say profits and productivity which is bringing a lot of benefits out of globalization, but also out of respect for our planet and out of engagement of people.
PETER ENGELKE: Thank you. Thank you so much, wonderful comments.
So, Guy—so you are with US Indo-Pacific Command. From your perspective, how do you see the challenge? I suspect your perspective is unique but very important.
GUY MARGALITH: Thank you very much, and it’s an honor to share the stage with this distinguished panel.
Specifically I want to echo something that the ambassador said about Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has led to substantial food insecurity. It has led to disruptions in food, fuel, and fertilizer, as the ambassador mentioned, as other individuals at this forum have mentioned. And this is something that we focus on very clearly because it sends a very important lesson. The lesson is that conflict, that war has severe impacts on global food security, and that’s why a major focus of the US Indo-Pacific Command—Admiral Aquilino, every single day, says his number one focus is to deter conflict. It’s to practice what the secretary of defense calls integrated deterrence, to use all forms of national power in collaboration with our allies and our partners in a multilateral, whole-of-government approach to deter conflict.
But one thing I want to emphasize is that when we think about security and deterrence, it’s not just about the absence of war. It’s not just about deterrence—deterring conflict. It is about the prosperity and the livelihood of people. That’s what it comes down to at the end.
And I think we need to expand our focus of what we define security as, and that’s something that we think about every day at INDOPACOM. It’s about how do we promote a human-centered approach to security because that is ultimately the way that we are going to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific that respects the rules-based international order.
If I could just highlight a few key statistics. In the US Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility there are 36 countries. Thirty-two of them are either island countries, archipelagic countries, such as Indonesia, or countries that have a coastline. Those countries rely extensively on maritime trade for their food security. A lot of countries, specifically in Oceania—20 to 30 percent of their imports are food imports. It is absolutely critical that the rules-based international order be respected because it is the lifeblood of these countries. In Fiji it’s 20 percent, in Timor-Leste it’s 30 percent, so just a few examples.
And at INDOPACOM we have a few key lines of effort that we are focused on to promote the rules-based international order. If I could, I’d like to highlight just three of them. One is our Women, Peace, and Security programs. We collaborate on a gender-focused approach because we recognize that a gender-focused approach is a key way to promote resilience, and resilience is a key part of food security.
Two, as we collaborate with our allies and partners to fight illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing—IUU fishing—this is a key area of focus because so many countries in Oceania and the region rely on fishing for their livelihood.
And lastly, climate change has a huge impact when it comes to food security or food insecurity. Our Center for Excellence, Disaster Management partners with our allies and our partners to include Indonesia, to include our other allies and partners in the region, to look at the impacts of global climate change, and to see how we can partner and work together to deter some of the biggest impacts.
So again, bottom line, we need to deter conflict, we need to promote the rules-based international order, and that’s how we’re going to achieve food security.
PETER ENGELKE: All right, thank you so much.
And Laksmi, so same question: how do you see the challenges facing us in the world today when it comes to food?
LAKSMI PRASVITA: Yeah, OK. Thank you.
And I would like to greet my minister, minister of agriculture. And we have also the secretary-general of the minister of agriculture.
Please allow me to sit here and talk about the food security, and I will talk about the food security in Indonesia. So if we take a look—have a look at the global food security index in 2022, actually Indonesia is improving. Yeah, we are green in the food security, so congratulations to us. We can weather the storm of this global supply chain disruption.
But if we zoom in detail into the global food security index, the highest score is in the food affordability. So it is affordable. The government is doing really good in managing the inflation in Indonesia. However, if we take a look in more detail at the lowest point is the food availability, so that is the lowest point in the index of food security in Indonesia. The food availability, having the lowest score is because of—due to the supply chain—the global supply chain disruption, the access to the farming technology, the access to the farming R&D, and those are the things that we need to put our attention if we want to improve the food security index of Indonesia, yeah—so the importance of the access to the technology to the farmer, the availability of the input, and the access to the global supply chain infrastructure.
So I stop there. Maybe we discuss more about what’s the solution then from the private sector view on this global—on this pressing issue of security.
PETER ENGELKE: OK, thank you so much.
And M.T., I hope you can still hear me.
MARIA TERESA NOGALES: I can.
PETER ENGELKE: Wonderful. And it’s so nice to see you virtually.
Same question over to you. You are working in Bolivia, and you see the world from that perspective and from other perspectives. From that geographic region as well as from your own experience, how do you see this equation?
MARIA TERESA NOGALES: Sure, I mean, I think we can all agree that we’re facing a set of compounding factors: climate change, the loss of biodiversity, degraded and contaminated natural resources, economic insecurity, energy insecurity, rising inflation, urbanization—I think is a subject that’s not touched upon sufficiently, which is definitely changing not only our production, but also our diets. Certainly war and conflict, which has been put on the table on several occasions throughout this forum, high food prices, the high cost of fertilizer, food export bans—all of this is, you know, presenting a very challenging scenario in terms of being able to guarantee people’s right to food.
But in addition to all of this, I would like to highlight two factors: one, the invisibility of all those people who work and are part of our food systems. So the people who are producing our food, or transporting our food, or commercializing our food are often not really taken into account in decision making processes. And I think that that influences our ability to really come up with effective solutions because if the actors whose livelihoods are involved in our food systems on a daily basis are not a part of the conversation, then we additionally are not able to understand the challenges that they face in order to ensure that we can have enough food and that that food is available to all.
So in this regard, I think one of the great weaknesses that we’re facing are governance challenges within our food system. And I’ll stop there so that we can delve into some additional questions.
PETER ENGELKE: All right, well, thank you so much, M.T.
So I see that we have roughly 19 minutes left, and we’ve gone through the first set of questions, and so I think that leaves us time for one more round robin. I’ve heard a lot of themes put on the table, and they are all enormous and all important. And we talked about war and conflict and the importance of unity. Urbanization is another one that we just heard about. We’ve heard about food waste. So there’s a lot to cover here.
And what I’d like to do maybe is to go to each of you and have you talk maybe a little bit more about your own—your own area of expertise as well as how you see, if you will, the solution sets. And so because we have—we have so many panelists and so limited time, it’s always unfair to the people who go last in the sequence, so I want to make sure that I balance that out a little bit. And let me start by going last to first for this round.
So M.T., you said—your last word was probably governance, I think was what I heard. So let me turn to you first and ask you how do you see the governance piece as a critical—maybe even the critical piece when it comes to solving the problems that you focus on?
MARIA TERESA NOGALES: Sure. Thank you.
And, yeah, I mean, I think at the end of the day governance is what sets the rules on how things are going to function. And so in this light, you know, in terms of food system governance, we’re talking about an absence of a normative framework country-to-country, region-to-region. Additionally, as I was mentioning, most of the actors that are involved in our food systems and that make, you know, food available in our households and in our communities are actually operating in the informal sector. They are very vulnerable to system shocks, and they do not participate in decision making processes.
So certainly, in terms of finding solutions to the challenges to food security, they need to be part of decision making processes, which means that our processes need to be very participatory. They need to be transparent, they need to be inclusive. And in addition—and this was put on the table earlier by one of my colleagues—is this concept of the rule of law. We need to make sure that our countries are strengthening the mechanisms that ensure that the rule of law is sustained, and that’s especially important when we are talking about generating guarantees for private sector investment because if our countries cannot guarantee, you know, private sector investment, then those are not going to come into fruition.
And finally—and I would say this is a huge problem in Latin America—is the absence of data. And without data, we cannot make informed decisions. And so I think there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of governance and decision making processes, and ensuring that we have sufficient data to make appropriate decisions to make wise investments that can actually help us improve infrastructure, and logistical systems, and supply chains, and production.
PETER ENGELKE: Wonderful. Thank you so much.
Laksmi, maybe I can turn to you next because you were—yes, you—you were fifth on the list and I want to make sure we come to you sooner rather than later so that we’re fair.
LAKSMI PRASVITA: Thank you.
PETER ENGELKE: You said something in your remarks about, you know, the private sector, and obviously that’s the sector you are in and you come from. So I wonder if you might speak a bit to this sort of business model or models that might be applicable to solving some of the problems that you are focused on.
LAKSMI PRASVITA: Yeah, thank you for the questions, yeah.
So what is the private sector view on this food security challenge, and how do we sort it out? So at the heart of the agriculture or the food production—at the heart of it is the farmers, and we know exactly that most of the producers of the food in this world is smallholder farmers, yeah. About 80 percent of the food production in the world is produced by the smallholder farmers; 70 to 80 of the agriculture land is in the process by them.
So it’s very important that we empower them—we empower the smallholder farmers, we give them the access of technology, the most—if possible, the most advanced technology as fast as possible to the smallholder farmers so that they can get all the opportunity, the best opportunity they can have to produce more food, yeah?
So the government of Indonesia has been very open with this access to technology by allowing the latest technology of the biotech to enter Indonesia and to be used by the smallholder farmers to improve their productivity.
However, it’s not enough, I mean, the training to the smallholder farmers and equip them with the technology itself is not enough because when they produce lots of foods, where do they sell these—the harvest. This is very important.
So not only we empower the smallholder farmers, which is very important at the center of the food security, but also how to get the farmers into the supply chain of agriculture, into the business supply chain. And this is where it gets more complex, yeah, because we need to create an ecosystem of business on rural level, not only involving the smallholder farmers, but also the local, the rural entrepreneurs, so that the ecosystem of agriculture in that rural, you know, can have a viable business model. And only with this viable business model we can then sustain the food production, yeah, to weather all of the disruption in the supply chain.
And so what we do as the private sector is we develop a public-private partnership approach to develop the business model, what we call as the close-look business model where we lined up—lined up all of the actors along the supply chain from the smallholder farmers, the bank, the insurance, the agro input providers, and then the off-taker itself.
So that—the risk of the business is distributed evenly along the supply chain and all of the—everyone in the supply chain bear the risk. And this model will be very—it is—for the bank to give a safety—for the bank and financial institution to pour the money into the supply chain. So it is, I think, an effective model that we can try to scale up to make it bigger and also to replicate in the other area.
So with the empowerment to the smallholder farmers, with the most advanced technology, include them in the supply chain of the agriculture, and also include—being inclusive as well to the local entrepreneur, yeah, the small agriculture kiosk in the village, for example, into the supply chain. And it will zoom out more macro to the more global level to include this as MSM—either micro, small, or medium enterprise into the local supply chain, regional supply chain, and then global supply chain with—by creating this business model all together—all of the public and the private sector together, I think we can have a bright future in the food security.
PETER ENGELKE: Wonderful. Thank you so much for that answer.
Guy, you are next on the list. So you spoke about—among other things, right—the roles and responsibilities that your organization has in sort of the area of freedom of navigation—in the current challenges, of course. But over the longer run, what do you think the keys are to sustaining a world wherein we have freedom of navigation in most if not all places that count, including places in this part of the world? Yeah, if you could just maybe give us your thoughts on that piece.
GUY MARGALITH: Sure. Thank you, Peter.
I think it’s not just freedom of navigation, but freedom writ large—a free and open Indo-Pacific, freedom of commerce, freedom of aviation—all the freedoms that we rely on as part of the rules-based international order. So freedom of navigation of course is critical because so many of the countries in this area rely on maritime trade specifically. But it’s not just that.
And it’s not just the United States either. We need to act together with our allies and partners, with all of the agencies of our governments, and that’s a key focus that we have over at INDOPACOM.
I just want to highlight perhaps just two initiatives that the United States has focused on, and first, Indonesia, as part of its G20 presidency, just last month convened the finance and agricultural ministers for the first time in the G20 to focus on issues regarding food security, which I think emphasizes the fact that this requires a multilateral approach.
Two, APEC—Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation—will be hosted by the United States next year, and APEC is the premiere forum to discuss issues such as these because free and fair and open trade underpin our rules-based international order. It underpins our food security. So just a couple of the things that we are focused on at INDOPACOM and the things that we are looking forward to, to work with our allies and partners as part of our defense of the rules-based international order. Thanks.
PETER ENGELKE: Wonderful. Thanks—thanks so much for that answer.
And I guess I want to turn next to Michal, and you—there are few things that struck me besides I’m also, by the way, a historian so I love the references to the 18th century and 19th century and so forth.
But among other things, you talked about the importance of developing unity, right, in our responses to various crises—climate crisis, food crisis, other crises—as well as formulating a different set of values. And I wonder if you might—if you would be interested in deepening and extending those remarks, and particularly when it comes to the piece of how unity is associated with values and what that might mean practically for solving the climate crisis as well as the food crisis—again, a very simple question with a complex answer, and you have about 2-1/2 minutes.
MICHAŁ KURTYKA: Thank you very much. That’s an excellent question, and that’s a very difficult one because we are entering into a very fragmented world. So it’s much more difficult to develop practical ways of translating this unity into something tangible.
But my answer would be at two levels: global and local. At the global level, I believe that we need to develop new sets of clean and water-saving technologies because you remember what minister of defense referred to, the three elements—energy, food, and water security. So I believe that we should develop a level of global community, and that’s an effort of science, that’s an effort of enough scale for these technologies to develop. We need to develop water savings, pollution-free, emission-free technologies.
But then how to link this with what you spoke about—local families—because that’s the challenge. Yes, the change is happening locally, so how to provide these global technologies at local—at the level of local communities.
And I believe that in today’s world it will be extremely complicated to develop financial tools. Why? Rich North is basically out of money; South is disillusioned after COVID for any support of Western countries. So we need to develop new forms of solidarity, and I believe that if we, let’s say, go for a global fund of technology where you locate IPs, then you can also provide these technologies at local level.
Now let me take an example of Indonesia. I like very much because Indonesia is champion in geothermal energy. World’s biggest resources of geothermal lies here in Indonesia because of volcanos, et cetera. But this is extremely water-consuming technology, yes? You need to extract the heat with water from deep of the ground.
But there are right now research in California—an example for our American friends of solidarity—of deep water-free geothermal. So why not to put the disposition of Indonesia this water-free geothermal technology so that local communities can develop their own energy sources, and they can become resilient in terms of their ability to produce not only energy, but also out of this cheap energy also food and safe water.
PETER ENGELKE: Thank you. Thank you so much.
So Bo, the problem of food waste is enormous globally, right?
BO HOLMGREEN: Yes.
PETER ENGELKE: But you’ve been running a very successful non-profit here in the region that has made, I think it’s fair to say, significant inroads into addressing this problem. I wonder if you might draw from that experience and talk about how scalable this solution set you found is to the rest of the world.
BO HOLMGREEN: Right. Well, it’s certainly scalable and that’s why it’s so important that we do the right research, and we get lots of people on board to create a lot of little SOSs around the world, and so on, right?
But we looked at the supply chain, right, and we’ve heard these two days about everything from fertilizer to not having war, and so on, right? So I’m going to go back to my walk in Kyiv, of all places, right. And I was creating SOS at the time, and I had never heard of the Ukrainian holocaust before. I must admit I was uneducated on that, right? But I went down to those big rocks where they have the carved letters, and I was standing there reading for an hour. It was cold, but I was so fascinated because this was when Stalin simply took all the food away from Ukraine and brought it to Russia. And I don’t know how many millions of people died from starvation, right?
So we can optimize society—that’s what we’re doing with circular economy. We’re optimizing everything we can to make it the best possible world for all of us. But if you have crazy people that just do things like that, as you talked to, there is little we can do. So government has to come into it. Government needs to work together, but governments also need to do their own thing.
The first thing that happened in America, which was great, was something called the Good Samaritan law. You know, everybody sues each other in America, right, but the Good Samaritan law is that I can give you food, and if I don’t have any reason to believe it’s bad, even if it was bad and somebody gets sick from it, you cannot sue me, right?
The other good thing that comes now from America is this focus on not having an expiration—no, a best-by date, right? A real expiration date, that’s OK, but a best-by date—so many people look at that and throw it away far too early, right, and that’s where we have to come with the… chain trucks and pick all this stuff up, and recycle it same day out, right?
And there are just some things where government can do, and the last thing governments really need to do—and I love the fact—if we are actually going to send a strong message to the G20 leadership, it has to do with the environment, right? Like I said, for every kilo of food we can save, the world is a better place in the emissions and so on. So tax benefits, financial motivation to have carbon reduction is essential.
If I could, you know, issue a certificate to all the hotels and whatever we pick up food from, and they could have a tax benefit, now we would have them lining up, right, so government really needs to step up in all these countries. And I will say it is happening. I mean, we now work with a prime minister in Thailand, and they are very excited about our food banks up there, and Cloud Food Bank, and whatever we call it. But we have to show the vision and then get the support from the governments, and that’s fortunately happening, so it will be better but still a long ways to go.
PETER ENGELKE: A ways to go, but a hopeful message.
BO HOLMGREEN: Yes.
PETER ENGELKE: And I think that’s fitting to end this panel with the ambassador. We began with you, and your country is going through some—obviously, some very difficult times this year. But your message was also hopeful. You were one of the panelists who stressed the theme of unity, and I’d like maybe to have you discuss—I think it would be remiss of me not to have you, as the ambassador, to talk about how you are working with our host country, Indonesia—how Ukraine is working with Indonesia in the area of food security. And maybe you can leave us with some hopeful words about the constructive relationships that exist in this part of the world and your part of the world that will move us forward on this really critical topic that we’ve been spending two days now talking about.
AMBASSADOR VASYL HAMIANIN: Yeah, thanks. Well, good question again—not for five minutes, but I’ll try.
PETER ENGELKE: OK.
AMBASSADOR VASYL HAMIANIN: Well, in a nutshell, this is a very challenging market, and in terms of it’s a big country with big consumption. And, you know, I guess the—all the exporters of the world are fighting for this market like they fight for like say for Chinese or Indian markets. That’s why it’s challenging for me, but I’m very optimistic. I’m always an optimist so after we defeat the enemy in the nearest future and everything will gradually get back to normal, we’ll have a plan about developing the agricultural business and the trading business between Ukraine and Indonesia, and at large with the region of ASEAN because, well, good news is that two days ago my minister signed the agreement—TAC agreement, so we became partners with ASEAN so there will be a bigger market and integrated market. We’d like to integrate more on that.
Then, well, optimistic news is that, you know, we are talking about farm to fork, right, and it’s not about just make people eat enough; it make people eat quality food and diverse food, right, so I think Ukraine is not about just a wheat bucket, as we also talk about.
PETER ENGELKE: Right.
AMB: HAMIANIN: It’s also about the diversity, food technologies, processing technology, et cetera.
So my goals will be three, and I hope the businesspeople here will listen, and—I will be very open for communication on that. I will be concentrating on three things. First is the diversity. It will be not just wheat or corn or something; it will be—it will be all sorts of things. Actually I’ve explored the market—it’s fruits and vegetables and everything, and the products.
Second is added value. It must be—it must be like processed food.
And third is, you know, following the trends because the market is always changing so we can follow the trends, follow the technologies, stick with the technologies and like, you know, create joint venture or whatever.
So it will be a challenging business, but I’m confident—looking confidently. Thank you.
PETER ENGELKE: Thank you.
So I am going to bring the panel to a close. Could you all please join me in applauding our panelists here today?
And once again, thank you all for attending this conference. As a representative of the Atlantic Council, we are delighted that every one of you is here, and we look forward to a robust afternoon of conversations.
Thank you so much.