Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to welcome you all here to the Siam City Hotel. I am pleased to have the opportunity to open proceedings here today with my colleagues from the Office of National Economic and Social Development Board.
FAO has had a strong interest in the bioenergy sector for some time. Dealing with issues across agriculture, forestry and natural resource management, it is a sector targets many of the strengths of our organization.
Bioenergy presents a number of opportunities in terms of rural development, strengthening domestic agriculture industries and – at least in the case of reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions – the environment.
But bioenergy development is not without risks. This is why in 2007, with assistance from the German Government, FAO set about developing an analytical tool that could be applied in any given country context to analyse the interplay between land availability, bioenergy production potential, rural development and food security and assess the sustainability of different bioenergy development pathways.
The Bioenergy and Food Security analytical framework is the end product.
FAO has now implemented this framework in Tanzania in Africa and in Peru in South America.
In Asia, Thailand was chosen as the target country.
The reasoning behind this choice was because unlike the other BEFS countries and many other countries in the region, Thailand has a rapidly developing bioenergy industry – and biofuels industry in particular. For example, national consumption of fuel ethanol more than doubled between 2006 and 2008 and consumption of biodiesel grew more than four-fold between 2007 and 2008.
Thailand is also unique in the context of the BEFS project because it has a detailed policy framework in place to guide the development of the bioenergy sector.
The Thai Alternative Energy Development Plan aims to expand the production of biofuels six-fold to 5 billion liters by 2022. To meet these ambitious targets, total cassava production will need to grow 25 percent from 31.5 million tonnes in 2010 to over 40 million tons by 2022 largely through yield improvements. Production of crude palm oil is expected to double from 1.8 million tonnes to 3.4 millions tonnes over the same period following expansion of oil palm plantations. We will hear more about this plan from our colleagues at the Ministry of Energy shortly.
The BEFS project aims to strengthen the capacity of Thailand to assess the potential trade-offs associated with the plan. Over the last 12 months, FAO – with the technical expertise and assistance of the Office of Agriculture Economics, the land Development Department, the Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment, the Rural and Social Management Institute and Kasetsart University – has implemented the BEFS framework in Thailand and developed a number of findings regarding the potential impact of bioenergy development on the Thai economy, food security and rural development.
Importantly together we have found that some of the biggest challenges and best opportunities lie on the farm.
Better farm productivity will deliver multiple dividends for Thailand and the biofuel sector by increasing income for farmers, controlling feedstock costs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions per unit of feedstock produced. But in order to ensure the sustainability of these fuels, significant land use or crop changes in feedstock production must be avoided and biofuel producers should continue to identify opportunities to utilize renewable sources and wastes in the production process.
You will hear more about the findings of the project from my colleagues soon. The purpose of the meeting today is for FAO to present these findings to you and high-level policy makers within the Thai Government. Later this morning I will chair a high-level policy forum to understand what these findings may mean for future bioenergy policy in Thailand.
Ultimately, with BEFS here in Thailand and around the world, FAO wants to ensure that bioenergy development does not threaten food security and leads to sustainable rural development. FAO will be asking you to continue to bring what you hear today to the attention of Thai Government Ministers and Officials in the near future – and by doing so – aid us in achieving this goal.
Beyond today’s consultation, I hope that the Thai Government – with the benefit of the experience and expertise of the BEFS Thailand partners – will have the ability to apply this tool again in the future for the benefit of Thai people.
Before I turn over to my distinguished colleagues from NESDB I would like to take a moment to welcome representatives from governments in the region to the consultation. As the region becomes more integrated, the potential for bioenergy development to impact communities beyond national borders will increase. We hope that this will be a good opportunity for each of you to learn from the Thai experience, share views from your country perspective and see whether the BEFS framework might be of use to your country.
I thank you for being here and I wish you all the best for a successful consultation.