Your Excellency, Minister of Agriculture,
Ladies and gentlemen:
It is a great pleasure to extend on behalf of the Director-General of FAO and on my own behalf our warm welcome to all of you to the Twentieth session of the Asia-Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics (APCAS). I am pleased to see that APCAS return once again to the site of the second session which convened in New Delhi in 1968. I am especially grateful to the government for kindly hosting this session and for providing excellent facilities and an environment conducive to fruitful and productive discussions. I take this opportunity to recognize the significant contribution made by India to the development of statistics throughout the world and the region, and for providing considerable resources to FAO, its staff and consultants. I am personally grateful to you, Your Excellency, for sparing valuable time to inaugurate the 20th session of APCAS.
I am also delighted that delegations from 15 member countries are attending the meeting, together with observers from 2 United Nations, international organizations and development partners. Your active involvement and continued interest in the activities of FAO in the field of food and agricultural statistics are especially significant as the demands for information about the sector are increasing and the availability of comprehensive regional data becomes essential to proper planning and decision-making.
Ladies and gentlemen:
In 1996 FAO organized the first World Food Summit. A key feature of the WFS Plan of Action formulated by world leaders was the global commitment to reduce by half the number of hungry people in the world by 2015. This commitment was reiterated in the 2000 United Nations Millennium Summit and is one of the targets of its Millennium Development Goals. At the 2002 World Food Summit: five years later, world leaders noted that efforts to reduce the number of hungry have not met short-term objectives, and reaffirmed their commitment and resolve to accelerate progress toward meeting the WFS goals.
Today, according to FAO's latest estimates, too many small-scale farmers remain trapped in subsistence agriculture, while over 842 million people live without enough to eat, suffering from micronutrient deficiencies and malnutrition caused by an inadequate diet.
In this context, effective long-, medium- and short term policies and programmes need to be devised by our leaders and decision-makers on issues related to food and agricultural development with the aim to solve poverty and food insecurity problems in their countries. In the course of policy formulation and programme development. The policy makers and planners would rely on timely and reliable statistics and information for an accurate description of the status and structure of the sector and analysis and projection of trends. It is thus essential that national statistical programmes, and particularly the food and agricultural statistics component, are designed to facilitate measurement of the progress made in achieving this target. It will not be over emphasizing to say that adequate financial and resources need to be allocated by governments to carry out this fundamental work.
This year, governments and the United Nations system are continuing their efforts in implementing and monitoring the Millenium Development and that FAO is further expanding the establishment or strengthening national Allliances Against Hunger. As a result, I feel it is especially valuable for us to focus this week on how to provide decision-makers with measures and indicators that help determine appropriate policies that improve food security and alleviate poverty and with methods for the evaluation of the impact of these policies.
Ladies and gentlemen,
To further facilitate the analysis and utilization of food and agricultural information it is important to create – at the national and sub-national levels - statistics databases with common data structures and compatible software. In addition and because globalization accents the value and use of data not only at country but at regional and world levels, the development of harmonized and standardized definitions on agricultural statistics is needed to make global comparisons effective and meaningful.
The World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT) – hosted by FAO – has been an important source of comparable information about the agricultural sector across the globe. I am pleased to inform you that FAO has not only made efforts to continue improving the quality of the data in WAICENT, but also created new initiatives to increase the effectiveness of the dissemination system for the FAOSTAT databases. With its new look, FAOSTAT2 will have an enhanced capacity for analysis of the information along with more userfriendliness. I am glad to note that the present APCAS session will have an opportunity to learn about current developments of FAOSTAT2 as well as efforts to develop the Regional Data Exchange System (RDES).
The RDES is a valuable addition to the databases for the region, since it gives users an opportunity to review at national and subnational level, information about livestock numbers and about area harvested, production and yield of major agricultural commodities in the APCAS countries. The contributions of the government of Japan in the development of RDES have been crucial. FAO greatly appreciates the continued support from Japan to strengthening agricultural statistics systems in the region, and to further increasing analytical capacities in the countries.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Among the types of data required for decision-makers is information about trade flows. The presentation on this topic should serve as an important lead-in to the roundtable about data requirements for policy analysis. This consultation no doubt will highlight the need for early forecasts of production so that the planning for food and agricultural imports and exports can be further improved.. I recall that the 19th session of APCAS recognized the need to develop objective techniques of forecasting. In this respect, I note that a presentation has been included in the present meeting on remote sensing technology for estimation of area and yield for early forecasting of crop production. Presentations on the use of this same technology in fishery and forestry statistics demonstrate the potential for integration of remote sensing and geographic information system technology as a powerful tool for various stages of planning.
One area where this new information technology application is extremely important is in the development of appropriate guidelines for prevention, monitoring and mitigating of major agricultural disasters. When a comprehensive national benchmark database exists and is integrated with geo-referencing natural resource and environmental information, through dynamic Geographic Information System, the resulting information will provides a solid basis for quantifying the impact of disasters and for planning emergency aid and rehabilitation programme development and implementation.
I am also pleased that this session will have an opportunity to consider issues related to the consolidation at the national level of information from different agricultural statistics agencies. I appreciate that the creation of a FAOSTAT-like database system with sub-national level data may be complex, but the benefits of having such a system are substantial and the session’s input into FAO’s development of a prototype for “CountryStat” is both crucial and necessary to its future implementation.
The statistical benchmarks for these databases typically arise from a large scale agricultural structure survey which provides data for lower level political and administrative areas. In many cases this survey is a complete enumeration, but may be carried out through a sufficiently large sample. FAO has long been responsible for publicizing strategies for conducting agricultural censuses and it is now in the process of preparing the guidelines for the World Census of Agriculture 2010. The APCAS presentation of major issues for this new publication offers an opportunity for delegates to discuss these issues and I look forward to receive your recommendations to FAO in this regard.
Ladies and gentlemen,
All along its 41 years of existence, APCAS has provided strong support for the development of agricultural statistics in the region. The commission has acted both as a monitor for the direction of statistical development as well as a catalyst for strengthening statistical systems. As FAO looks to its member countries for assistance in the planning of new programmes and initiatives, it is important that those agencies most involved observe how previous undertakings have been implemented and recommend future actions. FAO looks to you for this guidance. In turn, I wish to assure you that we at the FAO Regional Office in Bangkok are always ready to extend technical assistance to our member countries to the best of our expert capability and resource limitations.
Finally, let me again convey my sincerest gratitude to the government of India for hosting this session of the commission. I acknowledge the hard work of the secretariat staff from the Ministry of Agriculture in the preparation and organisation for this meeting. I also should like to thank my colleagues from FAO India, headquarter and the regional office for their commitment to making this a valuable and productive session.
I wish you success in your deliberations and a pleasant stay in delightful Delhi.