Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn
Mr Keokhwan Vajarodaya, Chairman, World Teak Conference
Professor Thira Sutabutra, Chairman of the Organizing Committee
Dr Lars Graudal, Chairman, Teaknet
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
It is indeed a great honour for me to be invited for a short remarks at this historical World Teak Conference 2013. At the outset, let me take this opportunity to bring to all assembled here the greetings and best wishes for a successful conference from the Director General of FAO, Mr. Jose Graziano da Silva. In the same breadth, let me also congratulate the Plant Genetic Conservation Project under the initiative of Her Royal Highness for taking the lead in organizing this international conference on teak. FAO is extremely pleased to have played a critical role in supporting this initiative, which I believe is the first such event at an international level.
I may sound repetitious to all of you experts assembled here, but you will certainly agree with me that teak is indeed a unique tree, by any measure. It is perhaps the most valuable timber species on earth – it grows fast, is light but very strong, quite resilient to decay, has great working properties, a beautiful finish, and fetches very high prices in the market. Some have even argued that the former colonization of Asia was mostly driven by the demand for timber, teak being the most desired of them all.
Because of its high value, the natural forests are unable to meet the continued rise in demand for teak. Increasingly, this demand will be met from plantation-grown teak. There again teak demonstrates its uniqueness – contrary to most tropical trees, teak can be easily raised in plantations. What was once a tree from Asia, it is now grown in all the tropical regions, including Africa and Central America. It will come as no surprise if in a decade or so, Central America would be the major producer of teak. This again speaks for the versatility and value of the species.
But FAO’s interest in fostering the development of teak is not confined to promoting teak plantations. In fact, teak is an excellent crop for the small farmer to participate in timber production – in small farms, agroforestry, and with rehabilitation of degraded lands. These developments can potentially lead to small and medium industries in rural settings. However, in most instances, the policies, regulations and institutional setups are not adequately developed to foster such positive changes. FAO has been actively seeking countries to implement these prerequisites, so rural communities can benefit from forestry, their livelihoods are raised, and urban migration can be stemmed. Simultaneously, FAO is also exploring other win-win strategies whereby farm- and agro-forestry developments can also address climate change mitigation while contributing to sustainable development. Teak can be an anchor species in all such initiatives.
I am very pleased to address the world’s leading experts assembled here. It is heartening to see that the Conference programme is not limited to purely technical issues such as genetics and silviculture, but goes beyond to embrace issues dealing with rural development, climate change, and as well the dilemmas faced by the investors. Indeed, we will need holistic solutions for such multifaceted issues dealing with people and the environment. May I therefore leave this hall with a fundamental question, “Can a single species such as teak bring about or contribute to some of the lofty goals that underline sustainable development?” I am confident this Conference will draw upon your considerable collective knowledge and experience to bring about solutions that are both local and global.
I wish you all much success with this Conference.