Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

OPENING REMARKS

by

Hiroyuki Konuma
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

delivered at the

Geographical Indications (GI) Conference
Value-Added for Food and Agriculture Products

Bangkok, Thailand
30 September 2013

 

Excellency Mr Thierry Viteau, French Ambassador to Thailand, 
Excellency Mr Nattawut Saikuar, Deputy Minister of Commerce, Kingdom of Thailand,
Ms Pajchima Tanasanti, Director General of the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP),
Mr Etienne Woitellier, Country Director, Thailand and Myanmar, AFD - French Development Agency,
Dear Colleagues, Distinguished Speakers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great privilege to welcome you today to this important conference on “Geographical Indications, or (GI): Value-Added for Food and Agriculture products.”

As part of its Food & Quality initiative, FAO has emphasized the importance of origin-linked products and supports the development of procedures that focus on qualities that contribute to rural development.

FAO considers geographically differentiated products a vital niche market and a good way of ensuring food security and sustainable agricultural development. Indeed, marketing such value-added products contributes to food security by generating income for food, education, healthcare and other basic needs.

During the past 20 years, interest in GI has grown considerably worldwide and in Asia particularly. The ASEAN region is now one of the most active regions in the world when it comes to GI registration, accounting for more than 100 nationally GI registered. Thailand itself is seen as a regional leader with 50 GIs registered, having gained protection in early 2013 with its first GI registration in the European Union for Khao Hom Mali Thung Kula Rong-Hai – Hom Mali Rice, as well as awarding GI protection for handicrafts such as Lamphun Brocade Thai Silk.

The exhibition accompanying this conference is one more demonstration of the country’s dynamism in GI protection.   

Today’s event will emphasize GI as an important value-added instrument for the food and agriculture sectors. The strong and often complex links between the local environment and human expertise are the origin of the GI concept.

The GI system provides answers for consumers who are looking for high quality, traceable and traditional products. GI is also an important tool to help local producers switch from quantitative to qualitative strategies and to increase opportunities in existing and new markets.

GI also benefits tourism, biodiversity and the preservation of cultural heritage, which will be emphasized during this event by a panel of local and international speakers from the public and private sectors. All the speakers are involved in the production, transformation and consumption of food and agricultural products. Many are also involved in setting policies for food quality and safety.

I thank the French Embassy in Thailand, DIP and the French Development Agency (AFD) for their partnership with FAO in organising this event within the framework of French foodies week in Bangkok called “C’est bon!”

I wish to express my special gratitude to the Ministry of Commerce and Department of Intellectual Property of Thailand for their strong support and active role in promoting GI and organizing this event.

I am also grateful for your assistance in connection with the launch in Thailand of the FAO/AFD Project on the Promotion of Rural Development through Development of Geographical Indications at Regional Level in Asia.

This project was designed to increase the income of small farmers by developing GI value chains, improving market access and increasing the recognition of GI by consumers.

FAO, AFD and Thailand are joining together to increase the momentum of GI development in the region. The goal is to reinforce emerging GI national systems and to build on regional and international GI experiences by providing information and creating networks to promote GI protection.

This project will provide training and technical assistance to support existing GI organizations. It will offer support to set up certification systems for GIs and help develop marketing tools that will give Thailand as well as other partner countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, the opportunity to develop national capacities in GI. Ultimately a solid base for a dynamic regional GI protection system recognized internationally will emerge. 

I wish all of you a successful event.