Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

FAO director-general to visit Thailand

Thailand, 28 Mar 2003 -- Bangkok - FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf will visit Thailand on 2 and 3 April to mobilize backing for Asian food security and safety, and related global efforts to eradicate hunger.

Dr Diouf is in Thailand as the official guest of the ministry of agriculture and cooperatives. The main concern of his present mission is to obtain renewed political commitment to the goal set by the landmark November 1996 World Food Summit (WFS) to halve the number of underfed people in the world by the year 2015. This commitment was re-affirmed during the follow-up summit in 2002. Latest estimates by FAO, however, reveal that without extra efforts now, this will not be achieved till the year 2030. FAO is thus calling for further increased political commitment and financial resources for sustainable agricultural and rural development.

The FAO chief is scheduled to meet prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, foreign affairs minister Surakiart Sathirathai, agriculture and cooperatives minister Sora-at Klinpratoom, and minister for natural resources and the environment Prapat Panyachatraksa. In addition, Dr Diouf will visit a Royal Development Study Centre in southern Thailand and meet with Bangkok-based bilateral donors and heads of UN organizations.

The latest figures and analysis presented in FAO’s 2002 Food Insecurity Report shows that East and Southeast Asia are on track to halve hunger levels by the year 2015. However, South Asia – home to more than a fourth of the world’s about 800 million hunger people – has slowed down regional progress towards the WFS goal. As a result, the Asia-Pacific region will now have to reduce its hungry population by 16 million every year, to be able to meet the WFS deadline.

''It is well known that poverty is at the root of hunger and undernourishment. What often escapes our attention, however, is that hunger and malnutrition are also major causes of poverty,'' says Dr Diouf.

In Thailand, the political will to eradicate hunger and poverty has been demonstrated by several policy measures announced by the prime minister: the granting of a three years’ grace period for repayments on loans for individual small farmers; the one million baht village and urban development revolving fund; and the “one village, one product” scheme.

According to the FAO chief, private and international financial resources are needed to increase the productivity of the world's farms.

Dr Diouf, a Senegalese national, has been FAO head since 1 January 1994.

RAP 03/05