Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

OPENING ADDRESS

by

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

delivered at the 

23rd Session of the Asia and Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics

Siem Reap, Cambodia
26-30 April 2010




Your Excellency, Dr Chan Sarun, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Government of Cambodia,

Your Excellency, Mr Mao Vuthy, Deputy Governor Siem Reap Province,

Your Excellency, Mr Kith Seng, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Cambodia,

Mr Hong Narit, Acting Director, Department of Planning and Statistics, Ministry of Forestry and Fisheries, Cambodia, and Chairman of the APCAS Organizing Committee

Distinguished Delegates and Dignitaries,
Ladies and Gentlemen:



       It is a great pleasure to extend, on behalf of the Director-General of FAO and on my own behalf, a warm welcome to the Twenty-third session of the Asia and Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics (APCAS).

       I am especially grateful to the Government of Cambodia for its generosity in hosting this session in the historic city of Siem Reap and for providing excellent facilities and an environment conducive to fruitful and productive discussions. I am personally grateful to you, Your Excellency the Minister, for devoting your valuable time to inaugurate this 23rd Session of APCAS.
 
       I am delighted to acknowledge the participation of some 60 delegates from 17 member countries who are attending this meeting. I am particularly pleased with the participation of Timor-Leste which is not yet an APCAS member, and two observers from the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).  Dear all participants, I am thankful for your continued keen interest in the work of the Commission and in the activities of FAO. Your active involvement is significant as reliable food and agricultural statistics are more essential than ever for proper planning and decision-making.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
 
       Since the establishment of APCAS as a statutory FAO body in 1963, and the first Session of the Commission in Tokyo, Japan in 1966, 22 meetings have been held in 13 different countries. APCAS provides a forum for senior statistics officials from member countries to review recent developments in agricultural statistical systems and exchange ideas with experts from FAO and other bodies on the state of food and agricultural statistics in Asia and the Pacific.

       This Commission serves to effectively synthesize the opinions and recommendations of member countries within the region and these are then brought to the attention of all member countries at the FAO regional and general conferences. Therefore, APCAS provides a unique opportunity, to put forward proposals that may contribute to the further development of agricultural statistics in the Asia-Pacific region.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

       You are well aware, that FAO’s main mandate is to combat hunger and monitor the progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, especially MDG one, Target two, aimed at reducing extreme hunger by half by 2015. Despite the rapid transformation of economies, the region still accounts for more than 60 percent of the world’s undernourished  population, due to its large population and relatively low per capita incomes when compared with the Latin American and the Near East and North Africa regions. FAO’s assessments show that 642 million people faced chronic hunger in Asia and the Pacific in 2009, compared to about 566 million during the 2004-06 period. 

       The international financial crisis which broke out in 2008, combined with the food prices crisis preceding, it has been a major setback to regional progress towards the MDGs, making an estimated additional  144 million people food-insecure globally by 2009, of which 76 million, or 53 percent were from  the Asia-Pacific region.

       The proportion of hungry out of the total population increased to nearly 18 percent in 2009 from 16 percent in 2006, the first time since the green revolution started in the 1960s.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

       We are meeting amidst, the historic grandeur that surrounds Siem Reap, to discuss and review a range of technical and policy issues, to be tabled during this APCAS Session which are highly relevant for the economic and social well-being of the Asia-Pacific region.

       Some of these issues relates to FAO activities since the last APCAS Session, ranging from publications, meetings and training workshops, to project activities. FAO will also brief you about changes in the structure of the FAO Statistics Division which are being implemented as part of the ongoing FAO reform.

       A summary report of the country reports prepared by you will be tabled and discussed. FAO will also provide you with feedback on the countries’ responses to the FAO questionnaires.

       An interesting agenda item is the Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics which is currently under way in several countries. FAO will provide an update on this subject and will discuss efforts made to integrate agriculture into the National Strategy for Development of Statistics (NSDS).

       Another salient feature of the agenda is a Round-table Discussion on Statistical Capacity Building. FAO and development partners such as ESCAP, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) will present current and planned efforts at the round-table discussion.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

       As you may recall, in 2005 FAO launched the World Programme for the Census of Agriculture 2010 (WCA 2010), FAO’s ninth Census round. Several countries have undertaken the Census of agriculture while preparations are under way in other countries. The Session will review the implementation of WCA 2010 in Asia and the Pacific and some relevant country case studies.

       The Session will also benefit from presentations by relevant government departments in Cambodia relating to the socio-economic survey, as well as gender and fisheries statistics. Other important topics will include food and agricultural prices, agri-environmental statistics, the Forest Resource Assessment and characterisation of small farmers in the Asia-Pacific region.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

       As I stated earlier, agricultural statistics have become increasingly important, especially at a time when policy-makers require timely and reliable information for decision-making.

       APCAS has provided strong support for the development of agricultural statistics in the region throughout its 47 years of existence. The Commission works not only to monitor progress in the development of agricultural statistics and takes cognizance of the needs of countries, but also sets directions for further developments in statistical systems, by providing a platform for sharing country initiatives. FAO also seeks advice from its member countries in deciding new programme initiatives and for setting priorities in the course of FAO reform. In this connection, I wish to seek your assessment on how previous FAO’s undertakings have been implemented including your recommendations for our future actions. 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.

       Finally, let me again convey my sincere gratitude to the Government of Cambodia for hosting this session of the Commission. I wish to convey my special gratitude to Your Excellency Mr Chan Sarun, the Minister for his participation to this meeting, despite his busy schedule. I acknowledge with a deep appreciation the hard work of the secretariat staff from the Department of Planning and Statistics, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Cambodia, in the preparation and organization of this meeting. I would also like to thank Mr Jay Castano, APCAS Secretary, and my colleagues from FAO headquarters and the regional office for their technical contributions and organizational efforts for making this meeting well recognized. I would also like to knowledge the technical contributions from our partners UN ESCAP, ASEAN and SPC as well as the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Myanmar’s Settlement and Land Records Department and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

       I wish you all success in your deliberations and a pleasant stay in the ancient and beautiful city of Siem Reap, gateway to the magnificent Angkor Wat, the pride of Asian’s history.

       Thank you.