Dr Suthiporn Chirapanda, Deputy Permanent Secretary and Secretary-General, National FAO Committee,
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, I am pleased to welcome you all to this very important brain storming workshop for the Preparation of the National Medium Term Priority Framework (NMTPF) in Thailand, which is organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives in close association with FAO.
First of all, I wish to express our sincere appreciation to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives for its leadership in the formulation of the NMTPF and the organization of this brain storming workshop. I should specifically extend my appreciation to Dr. Suthiporn for his personal support and guidance in this exercise, before thanking all of you for taking time out of your busy schedule to attend this workshop.
Ladies and Gentleman,
Thailand is a middle-income country that has seen remarkable progress in economic and social development over the past two decades, and as a result, it reduced the proportion of the poor from 32.6 percent in 1988 to 11.3 percent in 2004. Thailand has made substantial progress in recent years and achieved most of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) prior to the target year 2015.
Thailand’s progress can be attributed to a combination of appropriate policy and institutional set-up, good governance, growth in public and private investment and industriousness of the Thai people.
Agricultural sector has an essential contribution to that achievement. Thailand has successfully reoriented its agricultural production from traditional commodities towards high-value and safe products and made adjustments to remain competitive in the world market. Agricultural GDP grew by average nearly 5 percent annually during 1998-2003 and the sector played a key role in the advancement of Thai economy.
Thailand stands as the world No.1 exporter of rice and natural rubber, and the leading exporter of chicken meat, shrimp, sugar, fruits and several other tropical products. In 2004, Thailand recorded the second highest agricultural exports in value (next to China) among the developing countries and countries in transition in Asia. As a result, Thailand has successfully built up its status as one of the largest food exporters and “kitchen of the world”, while satisfying the demand for local food products at a low price.
Thailand, with rich experiences and lessons learnt, has become an emerging donor in assisting developing countries. Under the ACMECS (Ayeyawady – Chao Phraya – Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy) Agreement, Thai Government has initiated various measures including contract farming and other South-South Cooperation programmes in the agriculture sector to assist Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar.
Taking this opportunity, I wish to express our sincere congratulations to all of you who have been directly and diligently working in agricultural sector, including forestry, fisheries, livestock, as well as rural development. Many of you consider yourselves only as executives who implement the policies, while I would think all of you are so instrumental in articulating and helping shape the successful policies for the government. You have always been playing the essential part in the success of the national policies.
With all these successes and achievements, the target is now set to reduce the poverty ratio to less than 4 percent by 2011.
This is an achievable, but a daunting task and I agree that there can not be complacency. Thailand, on the other hand, also has faced with various challenges. There are concerns across the country about the unsustainable use of natural resources; impact of animal diseases such as AI, and natural disasters such as droughts, floods and tsunami; non-tariff trade barriers including sanitary and phytosanitary measures has become a serious bottleneck. Further, inequality is an increasing social concern.
In order to maintain and further promote its competitiveness and to take full benefit of globalization and trade liberalization, Thailand would need continuous effort on policy innovation for agricultural and rural sector development in the 21st century: need to adjust or restructure its farm sector to enhance its comparative strength, need to strengthen investment in agricultural research and development for sustainability, need to improve productivity and remain as a prime mover of Thailand’s agricultural growth to ensure production of safe and quality food at a competitive price. Of course, Thailand, like many other Asian countries, also needs better and cleaner environment.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The National Medium-term Priority Framework, owned by the government, aims at improving effectiveness of FAO intervention at a country level. It prioritizes FAO activities over the next five years to better support the achievement of the development objectives set by the government. The formulation of the NMTPF was originally requested by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. The prioritization will be done in line with the existing national policies and strategies especially 10th National Economic and Social Development Plan as well as the development goals within the relevant UN frameworks, such as UNPAF 2007-2011 and MDGs. It also takes into account the relevant strategies and priorities identified by FAO’s partner agencies to ensure FAO’s comparative advantage, maximize synergy and increased aid effectiveness.
The main purpose of this meeting, therefore, is brainstorming the priority areas for FAO assistance to Thailand over the next five years. The output of the meeting is to provide a basis for National Medium-Term Priority Framework (NMTPF) in Thailand, which is under preparation. It is my conviction that the NMTPF, once formally endorsed by the government, will also form an important instrument, when the government and UN agencies in Thailand embark upon the One UN programme which is still under the intergovernmental process at this stage.
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am extremely pleased to note that about 30 government officers from various agencies are attending this brainstorming. I am also pleased to inform you that to assist the government, I have also taken 13 technical staff out off my multi-disciplinary team in Bangkok to Pattaya, today and tomorrow. This indeed, is for the first time in our presence in Thailand since a half century ago. I think we have tried to match the government commitment in this highly important undertaking of developing NMTPF. Therefore, I need not say that all participants, from government or FAO, are expected to make a contribution, based on your expertise and experience, to this process, especially including the identification of priority areas for FAO’s technical cooperation with Thailand and their associated actions.
I am sure that this meeting will provide a forum for an in-depth exchange of ideas and views on FAO’s future contribution to Thailand. You would agree that we all have reason to believe that this meeting would achieve its objective and bring a fruitful result, because of the joint participation and commitment of technical experts, policy executives, and decision-makers present here in Pattaya.
I wish to thank you once again for your participation and I am looking forward to working with you in the next two days.