Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

STATEMENT

by

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

delivered at the

GMS Economic Cooperation Ministerial Conference

19-20 August 2010, Hanoi, Vietnam




Honorable Ministers,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Dr Jacques Diouf, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Government of Vietnam and the Asia Development Bank for inviting FAO to this important Conference. FAO has long been a partner of the GMS countries and the Asian Development Bank. We greatly value our partnership and our joint endeavor to promote sustainable economic growth, reduce poverty and hunger, and improve the livelihoods of the people in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

The Greater Mekong Sub-region has been playing a key role as a food basket of the world.  In fact, Thailand and Vietnam alone dominate a half of the volume of rice trade in international market and greatly influence the global commodity price and food security. Myanmar, once the world number one rice exporter several decades ago, and Cambodia and Laos, have a high potential to become important rice exporters in near future.  I fully agree that GMS countries should focus their commodity supply to domestic markets to ensure adequate supply to meet the domestic demand and stimulate local economy.  On the other hand, the role of GMS as a world food basket should not be underestimated, especially at present time when there is a growing number of chronic hunger world–wide and an uncertainty in food production to meet the demand of growing world population in medium-term future. It would be a great opportunity for the GMS countries to caputure the full advantage of the situation and enhance its role as a food basket of the world.   I suggest, therefore, that the focus of food production and supply to both domestic market and export market should be given equal importance and priority.

In the recent past, a rapid economic growth in GMS countries resulted in widening income disparities and inequality between the poor and the rich. It appeared that the rapid economic growth benefitted greatly to the rich and those who had a capital for investment, and the poor and disadvantaged people in society were left behind of the benefit of economic growth and became very vulnerable to external shocks. As a result, recent food and financial crisis resulted in the rapid increase in the number of chronic hunger in this region including GMS countries.   Small scale farmers who constitute the majority of the poor in the GMS and are the net buyer of foods are one of the most affected groups in the society.

The GMS countries have been hardest hit by natural disasters in recent past such as tsunami, cyclone, floods, trans-boundary animal and plant diseases including recent drought with a historical low rainfall this year. The negative influence of climate change poses a serious concern for future agriculture development and food security.  The bio-ethanol and bio-diesel productions are estimated to be doubled in next 10 years in this region. Accordingly, bio-energy crops have been competing with food crops on the use of land and water resources. This again poses a serious concern on the future food security.

Mr. Chairman,

Against these background and important changes taking place in recent years, I am very pleased to confirm FAO’s endorsement that GMS Strategic Framework (2002-12) remains very valid under existing conditions and is a good basis for moving forward for the formulation of the new Strategic Framework 2012-22.  I also fully agree that present core programmes be retained with necessary adjustments and that agriculture should be the major focus in the new GMS Strategic Framework including its relation to trade, climate change, bio-energy development and food security. I also fully support for the formulation of the second phase of the Core Agrucultural Support Programme(CASP) and wish to reaffirm FAO’s willingness to fully participate in its formulation and implementation.

In this connection, taking into consideration of earlier mentioned important changes amd emerging issues, I wish to suggest the emphasis of the new GMS Strategic Framework on the following areas:

  • Food security: encompassing three key elements, i.e. supply (production), access( poverty alleviation with a special target to poor farmers, promoting farmer organizations, agric insurance schemes, social security and safety nets, etc.) and utilization (trade, marketing, value chain development, post-harvest loss prevention, etc.),
  • Climate change and natural disaster management: with a special emphasis to mitigation and adaptation to climate changes including harmonization of policies among GMS countries, agricultural research, etc.;
  • Comprehensive bio-energy development: through multi-sector approach involving energy, transport and agriculture,  harmonization of  bio-energy crop production with food crop production, minimize the competition of land and water resources with food production through agro ecological zoning, etc);
  • Harmonization of cross-border agricultural trade and promotion of food safety: through harmonization of trade policy and regulatory frameworks, laboratory inspection methodology, food quality and safety standards and associated neetworks, and control and mitigation of transboundary animal and plant diseases, etc.).

FAO is presently executing 53 country specific long-term technical assistance projects in the GMS countries in the area of agriculture, food security and rural development. The total value of these projects amounts to nearly US$ 53 million. In addition, FAO is implementing 28 country level and 10 regional level projects to provide emergency and post-emergency assistance. The value of these projects totals US$ 66 million.

Considering the needs and important role of the Greater Mekong Sub-region in global food production, FAO will continue to work with the GMS countries in addressing the current and emerging priority issues for enhancing food security and livelihoods of the people. The FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific is currently undertaking restructuring  measures to meet the needs of member countries for quality technical assistance with more flexible and timely provision of financial and human resources, with a special emphasis to promoting partnership with other development partners such as ADB and IFAD including the promotion of co-funding or cost-sharing . FAO is also promoting its neutral role as an honest broker to bridge the cooperation between recipient countries and donors.  Currently, we have 40 country-specific and 22 regional projects in our pipeline. We are expanding our assistance to the new areas with emerging challenges and opportunities.

Finally, I wish to reaffirm FAO’s strong commitments of support to GMS countries, and continued partnership with development partners.

FAO is aware that our efforts can be leveraged and would be more feective through the collaborative actions and coordinated efforts with our partners in the related areas. I would, therefore, like to use this opportunity to building up further and closer collaboration with the partner agencies and member countries in achieving our common goal in alleviating hunger and poverty, and improving the livelihood of 325 million people in the GMS region.

Thank you, Mr Chairman and Distinguished Delegates, for your kind attention.