Your Excellency, Distinguished Representatives of National and International Organizations, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Morning!
It is a privilege and honour for me to be here with you today for the opening ceremony of the Livestock in a Changing Landscape consultation. First of all, on behalf of the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, I would like to welcome you all to this significant event, which brings together a wide range of distinguished experts and decision-makers with the ambitious scope to chart a new way forward for the livestock sector.
Worldwide, the livestock sector provides full or part time occupation to 1.3 billion people; it contributes to about 40 percent of the agricultural GDP and its feed base – both pasture and feed crop – spans over 3.9 billion hectares. Needless to say, when such a large sector undergoes changes, the implications on social and economic dimensions, on the environment and on public health are of immense magnitude. And, in fact, the investor sector is rapidly changing. The best known indicator of such change is the growth in the livestock sector. In value, production grew by 2.2 percent per annum globally over the past decade, mostly occurring in developing countries. Growth is, however, achieved through less obvious but determinant structural changes of production and distribution systems. Without having to dwell upon the dynamics and trends within the livestock sector, I would instead like to highlight the enormity of the challenge that lies ahead and the importance of this consultation by laying down before you the salient and groundbreaking feature of this consultation, taking Asia as a striking example.
For far too long, increasing global demand for animal proteins has been met with increasing pressure on and degradation of natural resources. In Asia, this has resulted in dramatic pollution loads and degradation of pasture land. Livestock is estimated to be the main inland source of Phosphorus entering the South China Sea and contributing to eutrophication and biodiversity erosion of marine ecosystems. In Mongolia and northwestern China, inadequate livestock management contributes to the desertification process. Environmental policies are required to increase natural resource use efficiency and reduce pollution emissions.
In Asia, more than 280 million poor are estimated to rely on livestock to sustain their livelihoods. While meat production has multiplied by 14 over the past four decades, the poor have only marginally benefited from the sector’s growth. In fact, the sector underwent structural changes such as intensification, increase of production size and vertical integration that have prevented the poor from taking part in the sector’s growth. In order to adapt to this changing environment, small-scale livestock producers need to either improve their competitiveness and access to markets or follow diversification strategies.
About 524 million people are undernourished in Asia and the Pacific, two-thirds of the world's total undernourished, while obesity and cardiovascular diseases are increasingly spreading to the urban middle classes. Livestock products are both a solution and an issue to unbalanced diets. With the SARS and HPAI outbreaks, Asia has also been a unique example of the epidemiological risks associated with the close proximity and high densities of human and animal populations.
FAO has helped member countries in addressing these challenges and is poised to do so until they succeed. FAO designed more than 45 projects in South, East and Southeast Asia in order to help countries face the HPAI crisis by mobilizing more than US$60 million dollars since 2004, in addition to other interregional programmes. FAO has also contributed to developing capacity in the area of poverty reduction and mitigation of environmental impacts associated with the livestock sector. For example, it fostered the development of a regional project of US$24 million to address the burning issue of animal waste management.
The Livestock in a Changing Landscape consultation is a unique opportunity to develop an integrated approach in response to changes of production systems that are impacting communities and their environment. It also serves as a timely forum to jointly design policy recommendations and pathways for concerted actions.
The wide range of expertise gathered at this event indicates recognition of the need for a holistic approach to tackling problems and challenges within the livestock sector. This, in itself, distinguishes this effort from others and it is my hope that this effort will serve as an important milestone and turning point in the livestock sector.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before I conclude, I would like to thank you once again for joining this event and sharing your expertise and intellectual insights on the various issues associated with livestock development. I wish you fruitful discussions and trust that the outcomes of the consultation will help FAO in guiding the livestock sector towards a sustainable path.