Honorable Dr. Phouangparisak Pravongviengkham, Acting Permanent Secretary,
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry,
Dr. Bounkhouang Khambounheuang, Director-General, Department of Livestock and Fisheries,
Dr. Chaweewan Leowijuk, Chairperson of APHCA,
Distinguished APHCA Delegates,
Distinguished Representatives from ILRI and OIE observer,
Colleagues from FAO headquarters and the Regional Office in Bangkok,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Is it my great pleasure to welcome you on behalf of the FAO Director-General, Jacques Diouf, to the 30th Session of the Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific here in Northern Lao at the World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang. My best wishes go to APHCA on its thirtieth birthday anniversary and I can only wish 'ad multos annos'. I am pleased to note that the Republic of Mongolia has decided to join APHCA, becoming the 16th country among its membership; we should like to extend a warm welcome to State Secretary Dr Batsuuri to the 30th session of APHCA. FAO is looking forward to your contributions and active membership in the APHCA family.
Over the last three decades APHCA has played an important role as a forum for knowledge and information exchange amongst Chief Veterinary Officers and Directors of Livestock Services in the Asia-Pacific region. Many training courses have been conducted jointly with the countries and with the support of OIE, ILRI, other institutions and FAO. Over the years APHCA – in response to challenges and opportunities – has developed and been involved as an important regional player, having both a sound financial footing and a substantial programme of work. In this connection, I note that the Secretariat has proposed an ambitious programme which you are invited to review and approve for implementation in 2007.
Over the last couple of decades, the livestock sector in Southeast Asia has been riding the crest of a tremendous expansion. Fuelled by population expansion, rising living standards and increased urbanization, the Asia region has witnessed a so-called 'livestock revolution' which will continue to expand. The associated numbers are truly impressive in livestock sector development. But more recently several parts of this booming sector have been hit by serious outbreaks of diseases. Highly pathogenic influenza, initially thought to be a Southeast Asian problem, has ravaged the poultry sector in Asia and has developed into a serious global poultry pandemic threat. The risk of a human pandemic arising from a mutated poultry virus has mobilized enormous global efforts to control the disease in poultry and in contingency emergency planning in case of a human AI pandemic. FAO – in collaboration with OIE and WHO – is deploying relentless efforts to strengthen the capacities of the veterinary services in the laboratories and in the field. Financial support for these endeavours has been generously provided by the international donor community; over US$ 40 million has so far been made available to Asia alone. We are thankful to ADB, Japan, Germany and the United States of America, which are the biggest contributors.
With the main focus these last years on HPAI, other transboundary diseases, particularly foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), should not be forgotten. New outbreaks of FMD have particularly hit Cambodia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Viet Nam, and are a serious threat to farmers and to food security in the region. FMD constitutes a major challenge to veterinary services and national budgets – both of which are already stretched to the limit in the fight against bird flu.
After so much focus on animal health issues, I should like to mention the workshop which forms part of this year's APHCA meeting: Goats: an undervalued asset in Asia? Despite the fact that the Asia-Pacific region accounts for the bulk of the increase in global livestock production and consumption, poverty and hunger are still prevalent. Small-scale producers supply the vast majority of animal protein consumed in Asia, and an estimated 235 million rural poor earn a living from the livestock sector. Small-scale livestock production presents one of the few rapidly growing markets that the poor can enter with little need for substantial resources or training.
However, the majority of the rural population is incapable of taking advantage of the demand-led growth for animal products. It is truly interesting to verify how far the goat – known in many countries as the cow of the poor – can contribute to food security and is a means to move out of poverty. There is definitely a high demand for goat meat. In some areas there might be good scope to intensify goat production and to establish market channels which can increase the income of poorer farmers. I thus look forward to the outcome of the workshop.
In closing I would like to thank the Government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic for kindly hosting the APHCA meeting. I wish you a highly successful session and look forward to your conclusions and recommendations.