Dr. Supachai was one of five panellists to speak at a session entitled Investing in Agriculture for a Better Future. The event was based around the FAO report entitled
The State of Food and Agriculture 2012, which was launched in December.
The Secretary-General noted that findings in the FAO report echoed UNCTAD's own research, which concludes that greater public investment is needed in agriculture, especially in poor countries. Agricultural research and development that was applicable to smallholder farmers had led to rising incomes for millions of rural poor, he said.
Similarly, he told the meeting that greater attention to factors such as infrastructure - particularly roads and transport facilities that enable farmers to get their produce to market - helped not only farmers but also national economic growth.
Part of the reason that the agriculture sector was neglected for several decades was the dismantling of government farm associations under misguided free-market reforms during the 1980s and 1990s, Dr. Supachai said. Recreating such organizations, especially for smallholder farmers, allowed them a voice with regard to how resources were allocated by their governments.
"Responsive government is vital," the Secretary-General told the meeting. "Research and development, greater investment in infrastructure, less corruption - all this is related to the quality of governance."
"Farm producers' organizations should be re-established and strengthened," he said, "especially as a way of helping smallholders. This is a way of gathering them together and giving them negotiating power."