Colleagues from FAO,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure, on behalf of FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf and on my own behalf, that I welcome you to the Expert consultation on livestock statistics. I am pleased that all of you have accepted our invitation to participate in this consultation.
Your group, in your capacity as experts in the field of livestock statistics, has the task of providing FAO and its member countries with guidance towards the development of better methodologies and procedures for livestock statistics. In the next four days you will review, examine and evaluate livestock sector data requirements, current methodologies for collection and processing of livestock statistics, and various analysis and dissemination procedures. You will then make recommendations about how countries can obtain the best possible information about the livestock sector, as a basis for enhanced quality of the analytical work.
Allow me indeed to emphasize that, ultimately, the analysis and utilization of the data are our overriding concerns. The quality of decision making depends on the quality, timeliness and reliability of the information available to farmers, scientists, government planners, traders and non-governmental organizations in order to make rational decisions on planning, investment, marketing, research and training.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The livestock sectors of the countries of the Asia-Pacific region have experienced phenomenal growth. This has created opportunities for farmers in the region to reap economic benefits, and it has also opened the way for people living in the region to improve their nutritional status through the consumption of livestock products.
The diverse functions of livestock were examined in detail in a recent study of the Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific. The study shows, for instance, that in India the dairy industry provides work and income to an estimated 27.6 million people. Livestock meat industries offer gainful employment to about 3.5 million Sri Lankan farmers. In China, women provide over 70 percent of the labour used in household cattle raising.
The survey also found that ownership of livestock enhances the food security of the poor by improving their income. Malnourishment prevailed among 43 percent of people who do not own even a single livestock while only 14 percent of those with one bovine animal were undernourished. And livestock - besides the social status associated with its ownership - helps build social cohesiveness in rural areas such as through the sharing of animals for ploughing or providing draught power for irrigation.
The expansion of the livestock industries, however, has created new challenges for policy makers because of the far-reaching and sometimes unexpected impact it is having on various parts of the economy. Indeed, it is not only the level of food availability which is important, but also the stability of supplies. Livestock industry characteristics - such as the proportion of production that comes from traditional producers - are important variables for food security, in particular when a country does not have the financial resources to turn to international markets when it experiences a shortfall in domestic production.
Policy makers and researchers involved in the livestock industries in Asia were asked to identify what they believed to be the main weaknesses of the sector. Production, marketing and infrastructure problems dominated the responses. However, the more long-term concerns were environmental issues and government intervention in global markets.
Ladies and gentlemen,
You may recall that in September 2000 at the UN Millennium Summit, 189 nations committed themselves to making the right to development a reality for everyone and to freeing the entire human race from want. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are intertwined with the aims of the World Food Summit (WFS), and poverty will not be reduced without substantially reducing hunger. FAO has the responsibility for monitoring progress towards the goal of halving, by 2015, the number of people who suffer from hunger. Up to the present, the Asia-Pacific region has achieved good progress, reducing the number of undernourished people over the last 20 years from 727 million to 508 million in the year 2000. However, with more than 500 million hungry people today, the challenge for the region is still daunting and the target of a further reduction to 280 million by 2015 will not be met unless and until urgent priority is given to the fight against hunger by redoubling our efforts to achieve the MDGs.
As countries around the world strive to improve food security and alleviate poverty with limited resources, it is important to improve data collection procedures and data analysis techniques that measure the progress towards these goals. The challenge for Asian countries is to generate reliable and timely information that is vital to better decision-making to ensure the sustainability of the livestock sector. It is the responsibility of statisticians to provide that information in a timely and reliable fashion.
Your present review of existing methodologies and your recommendations for strategies and methods to improve livestock sector data are by essence a high priority with considerable outreach to a wide user community from governments themselves to the public at large. As such, it will support the implementation of several commitments adopted by the WFS, and feed policy work with basic information for the statistical processing, analysis and support to statistical systems in the countries in the region as well as to core work of FAO such as the World Agricultural Information Centre - WAICENT, or the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS). With your assistance and expertise in this complex matter we will be much closer to achieving common aims such as food and nutrition monitoring; advising on participatory community programmes and household level measures to improve nutritional status and food security; and food quality and safety for domestic and exported foods.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me again express my appreciation for your participation in this expert consultation. I wish you success in your discussions and look forward to your conclusions and recommendations. And I hope that you have a chance to enjoy the renowned Thai hospitality and experience the charm of its people and culture.