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Annex II: FAO Opening Address

F. Guerrieri
FAO Representative in Viet Nam

Your Excellency the Minister of Agriculture, Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
Honourable Governor of Ho Chi Minh City
Chairperson of the APPPC
Chief of FAO Plant Protection Service, FAO HQs, Rome
Executive Secretary of the APPPC
Distinguished Delegates, Observers
Ladies and Gentlemen:

On behalf of the Director-General of FAO, Dr Jacques Diouf, may I first of all welcome you all to this biennial 22nd session of the FAO Asia and Pacific Plant Protection Commission (APPPC). In particular, Your Excellency, we are grateful to you for having kindly agreed to be with us to inaugurate this FAO-APPPC session.

We are very grateful to the government of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, for hosting this 22nd session of the commission. I would like to thank the session organizing committee which is comprised of very efficient concerned official members of the host government.

Mr Chairperson, it is my privilege and honour, as FAO Representative in Viet Nam, of addressing the biennial session of the FAO-APPPC which is one of the oldest (45 years) intergovernmental statutory technical bodies of the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAP). I am delighted to find that as many as 39 delegates from 18 member countries of the APPPC, and 9 representatives from the government of Japan, Pacific Plant Protection Organization (PPPO), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Viet Nam are participating in this session as observers. I am confident that they will greatly contribute their experience in the related items of the session agenda. Once again I welcome you all.

May I also welcome our FAO colleagues from its Headquarters in Rome, Regional Office in Bangkok, and FAO executed regional IPM projects on rice and cotton, based in Jakarta and Bangkok, respectively.

Mr Chairperson, I do not wish to pre-empt the discussion on several technical items of the agenda which will comprehensively presented by designated presenter in the coming days of the session. However, I would like to reflect in my statement very briefly the situation of major areas of plant protection in the region. Accordingly, I would like to say few words about the status of the latest amendment of the FAO Plant Protection Agreement for the Asia and Pacific Region, which was approved by the FAO Council in November 1999. I am sure you, particularly the commission members’ delegates, are aware that the approved amended version of the commission agreement was transmitted to all the member governments of the commission in June 2000, with a request for its acceptance as early as possible. In that context, I am very glad to announce that government of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam is the first member country who has recently officially deposited the instrument of acceptance of the amended agreement of the commission. This occasion also reminds us that she was also one of the nine founding signatories of The commission agreement in July 1956. India, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Philippines have also indicated their positive attitude towards acceptance of the amended agreement. We hope that remaining members of the commission will also give the same positive response towards depositing the instrument of acceptance of the amended agreement of the commission.

Mr Chairperson, I would now like to reflect in short the status of the major areas of plant protection in the region. Following its genesis and in line with the revised agreement of the FAO International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the APPPC has been playing a notable role in the extension of the development of various areas of plant quarantine to prevent the spread of dangerous exotic plant pests through international trade of agri-produce. The Commission’s Plant Quarantine Working Group has also been carried out lot of activities which I am sure will be reflected in detail in commission’s biennial secretariat as well as PQ working group reports as per technical items set out in agenda of the session. Dr N.A. Van der Graaff, Chief of FAO Plant Protection Service and Executive Secretary of the IPPC Secretariat at FAO HQs, Rome, will provide you the details on up-to-date status on the major areas of plant protection.

Distinguished participants, let me turn now to say few words regarding overall development status, in the context of this region, of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and its extension which has been undertaken by FAO during the last 22 years. Currently there are three FAO executed regional IPM projects on rice, cotton, and vegetables. As I already mentioned that in this regard you will receive more information through the APPPC Executive Secretary report and an IPM working group presentation. From my observation, since I joined as FAO Representative in Viet Nam, I am pleased to find that IPM is figuring as very substantive plant pest management programmes both at national and regional levels in this FAO region. I am sure that the expert participants of this meeting are well aware of the strategy generally adopted by most developing countries in the Asia-Pacific Region for increasing crop production, to feed its burgeoning population, has been based on high yielding varieties (HYV) for increasing yield per hectare. This HYV tended to increase considerably the incidence of pests and diseases. In this context, to combat the increasing plant pest and pathogen problems, the use of synthetic pesticides in several countries in the region are increasingly resorted to. However, it is difficult to have precise figures about different groups of pesticide consumption, but in-depth observation of the estimated figures of production and distribution indicates that it has been on the increase during the last five years. Thus, I should say, one of the major tasks before the countries of the region is to emphasize on devising policies and programmes which will facilitate specifically only on need based use of synthetic pesticide consistent with the growing concern of the protection of the environment and human health. It is now generally accepted that indiscriminate use of pesticides is not the best solution to plant pest problems. Therefore, it has been encouraged to develop and implement IPM to the forefront of pest management. However, in the use of synthetic agro-pesticides, most of the developing countries in the region still face a real dilemma. This arises from the fact that, despite the recent progress in the development of plant protection programmes besides pesticides, the extent of both pre- and post-harvest crop losses is still very heavy. Hence an effective strategy of plant protection is still badly needed in several countries in the region.

Distinguished participants, I feel that it would remain incomplete briefing to you if it is not touched at least briefly on the recent activities in the field of agricultural biosecurity in the region. All of you are well aware of development activities in biosecurity in food and agriculture around the world. FAO is also active in a number of areas that relate to agricultural biosecurity, including the development of international and regional instruments, capacity building, and programme identification and implementation. So far it has been observed that several countries in the region are in the process of raising. “Biosafety Regulatory Framework” and on priority basis its implementation. Based on what most of the countries in the region have experienced in establishing and implementing biosafety regulations and more recently in the broader debate about GMO issues, we foresee that development of cooperative work among government bodies and private sector would be essential in order to respond to the needs of all stakeholders.

Mr Chairperson, while the region, as a whole, has done well in developing plant protection programme, there are still some disquieting features in the plant protection systems of individual countries in the region. Considerable development works need to be done in the region, particularly, in further strengthening organizational structures for plant protection. For instance, some of the vital areas of pest management - such as pest surveillance and forecasting; pesticide legislation and registration; safe handling and judicious use of pesticides; standard practice of loss assessment; improvement of plant quarantine services; human resource development; etc. are either very weak or inadequate in several small and less developed countries in the region. In order to alleviate these constraints, it is expected that a number of priority recommendations would be set out by this session of the commission, keeping in mind that plant protection is a special priority in the region within the overall context of sustainable agriculture. APPPC has a leading role to play in the collaborative endeavour of millions of farmers towards sustainable agriculture.

In conclusion, I would again like to extend to all of you a very cordial welcome to this session of the APPPC. I have no doubt that with the presence of our distinguished delegates, this will indeed be highly productive session of the commission. Thank you for your patience and wish you all success.

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