Food systems. On August 1, Uruguayan journalist Mario Lubetkin assumed the regional representation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for Latin America and the Caribbean, replacing Julio Berdegué. Lubetkin joined FAO in 2014 as director of the Office of Institutional Communication, from 2015 he led the Director-General’s cabinet, and in 2017 he was appointed Assistant Director-General. The new Regional Representative highlighted the support that FAO will continue to provide intensively to the governments of the region, focusing on the transformation of agri-food systems and stimulating agricultural innovation processes.
During an interview, Lubetkin outlined a diagnosis of the main challenges facing FAO. In this regard, he considered it urgent to keep food and fertilizer trade open and to ensure that supply chains continue to function. He also stressed the need to seek new and more diverse food supplies. On the other hand, digitalization and government efforts are considered necessary to achieve the digital transformation of the agrifood sector, while including innovations and technologies considering all actors and sectors of the system.
According to the diagnosis of the new Regional Representative, Latin America and the Caribbean were among the regions most affected by the pandemic in terms of food consumption. The problem is not only in access to food, but also in the quality of what is consumed: “The region has the highest cost of a healthy diet in the world, 22% above what it costs in Europe, the United States or Canada,” explained Lubetkin.
Next steps. Among the concrete changes Lubetkin wants to promote in the Latin American region are reducing food loss and waste; promoting sustainable consumption; protecting water and managing water scarcity; connecting small farmers to markets; improving the resilience of food systems; and promoting better nutrition and balanced diets. To achieve these policy drivers, FAO will work together with national governments, civil society, academia and the private sector to develop and implement different solutions on the ground.
Engagement opportunity. Private companies will now have a new interlocutor responsible for the international organization’s projects and policies in Latin America and the Caribbean. It should be noted that FAO usually carries out various projects in conjunction with national governments, as well as promoting the advancement of legislative initiatives through dialogue with different members of parliament. FAO is a relevant actor at the regional level in the area of food systems, healthy diets and nutrition.