Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

WELCOME ADDRESS

of

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

delivered by

Vili A. Fuavao
Deputy Regional Representative
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

at the

Asia-Pacific Regional Symposium on
Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Organic Farming 

Bangkok, Thailand 
2 to 4 December 2013

 

Mr Andre Leu, President IFOAM,
Mr Won-Sik Noh, Secretary General APRACA,
Ms Juejan Tangtermthong, Executive Director AFMA
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning.

On behalf of the Regional Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization it is my pleasure to welcome you to the FAO-IFOAM Asia-Pacific Regional Symposium on Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Organic Farming.

We are all aware of the challenges that global agriculture faces to meet the demand for food in a sustainable way into the future.  The two main factors that drive demand are population growth and rising incomes. 

Population will grow by one-third or 2.4 billion from 7.15 billion now (2013) to 9.55 billion in 2050.  Per capita incomes will grow too and this will cause changes in diets and demand for higher quality food, including an increase in demand for organic food.  Revised estimates from 2012 show that world food production should increase by 60 percent from 2005/2007-2050 to meet demand.

Globally, organic agriculture is growing at a much faster rate than regular “conventional” agriculture.  In 2011, global sales of organic produce are estimated to have reached USD 63 billion.  The grow rate has averaged 19 percent per annum since 2002.  The number of farmers practicing organic agriculture has also risen rapidly from a little over 400,000 in the year 2002 to 1.8 million in 2011. 

Organic farmers may have different motivations for going organic. Often, organic products fetch a premium price both at retail and at farm gate.  Cost of cash inputs is often lower than for conventional methods of production and although labor requirements may be higher there is evidence that organic farming may in many cases be more profitable than conventional farming.  An increasing number of farmers shift to organic production because they feel that it enables a healthier environment for themselves, their family and their community.

There are a good number of challenges facing the agriculture organic industry.  Perhaps first and foremost, the sector has to prove that its overarching objective of sustainability can be aligned with the need for intensification, higher yields and food security.  There is some evidence that in the long term organic yields match the yields of conventional farming but this has not yet been documented consistently for a wide range of crops and production systems. In our region this would in particular be important for rice, Asia’s number one staple crop. 

There are other challenges too.  A good proportion of organic produce in developing countries is destined for the developed markets in the US, Europe and Japan.  The long term sustainability of these exports, i.e. the issue of “food miles” and their environmental impact is increasingly being questioned and there is growing awareness that organic producers in developing economics need to shorten their supply chains and refocus more on their domestic markets. 

An issue is also the small scale and scattered nature of most organic production which leads to costly logistics and inefficient supply chains and to consumers being often faced with a limited number of outlets with a limited choice per outlet.  Like conventional agriculture, organic producers need to look for improving the efficiency and the economies of scale in their supply chains for example by better cooperation between producers.  Third-party certification of organics remains a costly affair for farmers and the industry needs to look actively into alternatives such as PGS and other alternative schemes.  I have noted that this topic will receive proper attention in this symposium.

This symposium fits very well within the new strategic objectives of FAO.  The long term sustainability of sufficient and high quality agriculture production for the world’s growing population is the primary objective of the organic movement. This is fully in line with FAO’s Strategic Objective 2: “Sustainable management of agriculture, forestry and fisheries” which emphasizes the need for sustainability. 

Because of the structure of the organic production and marketing systems, which requires the product to be identifiable throughout the supply chain, the Symposium can also make a valuable contribution to FAO’s Strategic Objective 4: “Build inclusive and efficient agriculture and food systems”.  This Strategic Objective furthermore incorporates the need for inclusiveness of small farmers which fits well with organics where small farmers play an important role as producers.

The role of FAO will not be limited to being the initiator of the symposium. Your presentations and papers will be analyzed and the outcomes will be made accessible for the purpose of advocacy, extension and policy development to the various target groups of government, policy makers, farmers and other private sector stakeholders, and to consumers.

I would like to see that this Symposium comes up with key conclusions and recommendations that we can use to build-on to further promote the organic sector in the region and thus contribute towards long term sustainable production of healthy food and other agriculture products.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I wish you a productive three days and thank you for your attention.