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* Senior Plant Production and Protection Officer, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand.
Allow me to welcome you to the FAO Regional Office and to this Expert Consultation. This Consultation has been organized by the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, in collaboration with the Field Food Crops Group of the Plant Production and Protection Division, FAO, Rome. I am grateful to you for coming here to make your contribution to this Consultation, despite your busy work schedules back home.

As you know, rice is the most important food crop in the Region. In fact, in the majority of the Asian countries, food self-sufficiency and Food Security largely depend on rice self-sufficiency and rice security.

IRRI, FAO, other International Organizations, Agencies, Commissions, Institutions and Donor countries have been assisting the rice sector in the past, and all of them still continue to do so. Their active involvement and contribution to the development of this sector has to be acknowledged and commended.

There is no doubt that significant achievements have been made in increasing the rice crop yields during the past few decades. However, there are still serious gaps between potential and actual yields in many countries of the Region and, therefore, much more remains to be done in this direction. There is a need and scope to further increase the yields and narrow the gaps between potential and realized yields. This gathering is in support of realizing this goal.

Briefly, the objectives of the consultation are the following:

a) to review the situation regarding the gaps between potential and actual rice yields in the Asia-Pacific Region; and

b) to discuss a number of key issues relating to sustainable increased rice production and to develop proposals needed for further action.

To attain these objectives we have invited all of you here to share with us your knowledge and experience on the topics to be presented and discussed.

I wish you all productive discussions and good contacts among one another for the exchange of information and experience.

Thank you for your attention.

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