Colleagues from FAO,
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Director-General of FAO and on my own behalf, I welcome you all to this Expert Consultation on Statistics for farmer’s income. I am pleased to have this opportunity to greet and meet colleagues from ministries, universities and statistics agencies in the region. I would also like to thank the experts from Eurostat and the USDA, as well as FAO colleagues from headquarters for joining this consultation at the FAO Regional office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok.
As most of you are aware, the Expert Consultation is one of the mechanisms we have in FAO for focused discussions on specific issues of special interest. In addition, FAO benefits from the expertise, knowledge and intellectual inputs from selected experts, and your conclusions feedback into the Organization’s definition of policies and programmes. Regional expert consultations are usually convened as a follow up to discussions held during sessions of the Asia and Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics (APCAS). At the 2006 APCAS session held in Phuket, Thailand, a Handbook on Rural Household, Livelihood and Well-being jointly published by Eurostat, the OECD, UNECE and FAO was presented. In the roundtable discussion that followed the presentation, participants recognized the serious weaknesses faced in rural household income and expenditure statistics and the obstacles that these weaknesses present to devising suitable agricultural policies and in assessing their effectiveness.
This of course is no surprise especially to this group of eminent experts. Farm income data is notoriously difficult to obtain for several reasons. Firstly, farm income is hard to assess as it involves the collection of a great deal of income and expenditure data on on-farm activities, seasonal off-farm earnings, unrecorded expenditures, credits and debts, etc. Secondly, by its very nature, farm income data cannot be collected through census surveys but requires specialized and tedious farm by farm sample surveys instead. Thirdly, farmers are usually reluctant to disclose income-related information. Fourthly, income from farm processing as well as from rural agro-industry and farm cooperative activities is often overlooked.
In your capacity as experts in the field of farmer’s income statistics, you have the opportunity to provide FAO and its member countries with guidance towards the improvement of farmers’ income statistics in the Asia and Pacific region. Over the next four days you will share experiences by reviewing methodologies for collection of farmer’s income data and identifying their weaknesses and strengths. You will also be discussing the processing of this data and identifying appropriate strategies for imputation and analysis. You will then formulate some recommendations and strategies for improving the collection and analysis of farmer's income data.
Ladies and gentlemen,
You are well aware that one of FAO’s main priority areas is to combat hunger and monitor progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goal number one, Target two, aimed at halving hunger by 2015. FAO makes recommendations or gives advice to decision-makers on international, regional and national issues relating to food and agricultural developments. It is FAO's firm belief that decisions on policy, strategy and programmes for food security and sustainable agriculture development should be supported by timely and reliable statistics and information.
The Asia Pacific region hosts 61 percent of the world population, predominantly living in rural areas. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for the majority of the world’s rural people. Of the developing world’s 5.5 billion people, 3 billion - nearly half of humanity - live in rural areas. Of these rural inhabitants, an estimated 2.5 billion are engaged in agriculture, and 1.5 billion are smallholders. In South Asia, for example, 40 percent of the rural population lived on less than US$1 a day in 2002.
Progress reported in poverty alleviation is due largely to the key role played by rural areas. Recent reports have shown that the decline in the $1-a-day poverty rate in developing countries - from 28 percent in 1993 to 22 percent in 2002 - has been mainly the result of falling rural poverty rates (from 37 percent to 29 percent) while the urban poverty rate remained nearly constant (at 13 percent). More than 80 percent of the decline in rural poverty is attributable to better conditions in rural areas rather than to out-migration of the poor. This is an important outcome since the majority of the poor are projected to continue to live in rural areas until 2040. Thus, monitoring farm income and food production in the Asia-Pacific countries is crucial in the context of poverty alleviation.
Underestimation of farm income and gaps in data distorts or blurs the vision of policy markers in governments and international development organizations, and handicaps national and international financial systems such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, in the optimal allocation of resources to agriculture and rural development. Your discussions this week can shed further light and correct perceived distortions. Reliable information on farm income also enables better monitoring of the effect of policies addressing rural poverty. Given that significant amounts of resources have been, and will be committed in the future, to rural development programmes that require continual monitoring and evaluation, the impact of improper or ineffective policies can have costly implications. In order to promote efficient use of these resources, FAO is taking the initiative to develop guidelines and caveats for countries and agencies which collect, analyse and disseminate agricultural sector data. As a knowledge organization, FAO recognizes the need for continuous learning and adaptation to emerging requirements. A primary objective of this Expert Consultation is thus to learn from you and - in doing so - strengthen FAO's technical assistance and capacity building activities for the further development of statistical analysis programmes in the member countries.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I believe that at the end of the consultation, ways and means will be formulated for national statistical organizations in the region to improve the collection of farmer’s income statistics, taking into consideration individual countries’ capabilities and limitations. It should also be possible to identify potential national or regional technical development assistance that would provide relief to identified national and regional level constraints in the generation and exchange of useful statistics on farm income. As a result, government, FAO and its development partners will be in a better position to address incomplete and missing data using various types of analyses for decision-making.
Let me reiterate that you have been invited and have come to participate in this Expert Consultation in your personal capacity and not as official representative of your governments. The opinions and views you express during this meeting are, therefore, your own professional ones. They do not, and should not, necessarily reflect any position of your organizations or country. Consequently, during your deliberations of the various agenda items, I encourage you to exchange ideas frankly. Your constructive views, I am certain, will contribute immensely to the achievement of the objectives we have set for this Expert Consultation. The results of this Expert Consultation, I furthermore understand, will be reported at the 22nd Session of APCAS to be held in Malaysia in June next year.
I wish you all a very fruitful meeting and a very pleasant stay in Thailand, the land of smiles.