Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

REMARKS

by

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

delivered at the

Measuring the Prevalence of Undernourishment at
National and Sub-National Levels in Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand
29 August 2011

  

Excellency, Mr. Apichart Jongsjkul, Secretary General of the OAE
Excellency, Professor Dr Kraisid Tontisirin, President, The Nutrition Association of Thailand,
Distinguished Guests,
Colleagues from FAO and sister UN Agencies,
Honourable Delegates
Excellencies, FAO Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my honour to join you today in this meeting on food security in Thailand where we will have the opportunity to discuss the measurement of the prevalence of undenourishment in Thailand and at provincial level.

First of all, I would like to thank the Her Royal Highness (HRH) Princess Maha Chakri Sirinthorn and the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand for their strong commitment on food security issues in Thailand and support to this project whose focus is on improving food security information at the national and sub-national levels for better policy-making and actions towards improving the Thai population. 

The World Food Summit in 1996 and the Millennium Development Goal 1 have set objectives in reducing the number and proportion of undernourished population by half by 2015. The World Food Summit (five years later) in 2002 and the most recent Comprehensive Framework for Action on the Global Food Security Crisis in 2008 have all reiterated efforts and actions for combating one of the world's most important problems of hunger.

FAO's Director General, Mr Diouf has stated that "the original goal can be met if countries and their development partners have the political will to do so". Furthermore he said, "Once problems are understood at the community level, resources can be focused, first, on the direct relief and basic service interventions that ensure that people have the health and energy to participate in their own development."

FAO is the leading organization for the global monitoring of the MDG 1.6 hunger indicator and has been deeply involved in the global efforts to reduce the number and proportion of undernourished population.

The Economic and Social (ES) Department of FAO is involved in many initiatives and programmes to identify and reduce food insecurity throughout the world, through our Regional Office in Bangkok we are addressing this situation in Asia. The Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics and the joint FAO and WFP Corporate Strategies on Information Systems for Food Security are two most recent ES initiatives aiming to provide global food security information products and services and to support at strengthening national agricultural statistical systems to respond to data requests driven by needs and requests of stakeholders.

Thailand is considered as an upper middle income country having the 2nd largest economy in Southeast Asia after Indonesia. During the past decades, Thailand has registered sustainable annual per capita GDP growth rate which was 8 percent in 2010 and have succeeded in reduced poverty rate at about 8 percent in 2009.

Despite the fact that Thailand produces more than enough food to meet domestic needs and is a major food exporter, abundant food supplies do not automatically translate into food for the poorer groups of Thai society.  Latest FAO figures on the prevalence of undernourishment of Thailand revealed a slow progress from the 26 percent level in 1990-92, to 16 percent in 2005-07. The national average dietary energy consumption of the Thai has increased by about 12 percent over the same period. In addition, the recent high food prices have affected the food availability and accessibility of a large proportion of the population particularly those living in rural areas where the poverty rate was about 9 percent in 2009.

Food security has been one of the major issues on the political agenda and the Royal Thai government has initiated several programmes for reducing hunger and poverty as well as improving nutrition and food safety.

However, with all the political will in combatting poverty and hunger, some divergent trends of poverty and undernourishment have been observed in addition of the alarming undernourishment rate of Thailand as compared to other countries in the region. To achieve any significant reduction in hunger and poverty and hence in food insecurity in Thailand, efforts will have to be focused on vulnerable and disadvantaged groups that are identified as having food insecurity. Therefore in order to achieve the expected results, these efforts must be designed on the basis of real facts, they must focus on the right targets and have their results assessed on a regular basis. 

Good and accurate statistics on food insecurity will provide immeasurable support in the battle to break the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger. Policies, programmes and projects are shaped out of available information.  Therefore proper timely and reliable statistics are needed to identify the location and define the profile of the food insecure population groups for better targeting the poor and the hungry. 
 
With better statistics our decision-making process will be able to analyze constraints, identify benchmark situations, set quantified objectives, monitor implementation and measure the impact of policies, programs and projects on food insecurity.

For estimating food deprivation and poor nutritional status the most frequent source of data include food balance sheets, household income and expenditure, individual food intake surveys, anthropometric surveys and qualitative and indicative self-assessment surveys.

This meeting is a prelude to the FAO support activities to strengthen Thailand statistical systems to produce timely and quality food and agriculture statistics for improved food security information in support of better policy-making and actions towards food security and socio-economic development. The first activity is one-week training on the Food Balance Sheet, which will be held during this week of 29 August to 1 September 2011, at the OAE. Other trainings of food security analysis of the 2011 Thailand National Household Socio-Economic Survey will follow in due course. 

The meeting aims to discuss the scope of the government requirements in a multi-agency policy framework for the regular evaluation and monitoring of food insecurity at the national and sub-national levels as to inform policy makers for better design and more focused food programmes and interventions in the fight against hunger.

On behalf of FAO, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the OAE and its multisectoral task force and National Statistics Office for their full cooperation in making this meeting possible and their great involvement in the project. I acknowledge the good work of the project team, who have facilitated the support to this important event and brought us together today.

 I also would like to thank our FAO colleagues and Ms Gladys Moreno, Messer. Seeva Ramasawmy and Kari Rummunaiken from the FAO Statistics Division, who have come all the way from FAO Headquarter to facilitate the meeting and their involvement in the project.

 I want to express our gratitude to the national and international institutions participating in this meeting and would encourage the OAE multisectoral task force dealing with the cross-cutting national issue of food security to enhance the use of new technical inputs for the improvement of the development and implementation of sectoral work-plans and actions toward a better food security in Thailand.

Ladies and gentleman

 I wish you a fruitful and productive meeting.

 Thank you very much.