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1. At the invitation of the Government of India, the Twentieth Session of the Asia and Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics (APCAS) was organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in New Delhi, India from 20 to 24 September 2004. The Session was attended by 86 delegates from 17 member countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Thailand, United States of America, and Viet Nam.

2. The Twentieth Session of APCAS opened with the inaugural address by His Excellency Shri Kantilal Bhuria, Minister of State for Agriculture, India. In his address he stated that India was proud to host APCAS for the second time (the first time was in the year 1968). He pointed out that agricultural statistics were very essential in planning to provide food for all people at the right time and at the right price. He mentioned that all state governments in his country were achieving this goal using various methods. He emphasized that the agriculture census and livestock census in India were being conducted carefully and that much effort had been made to use improved technologies such as Remote Sensing (RS) and the Geographic Information System (GIS). He further stated that agriculture sector information about international trade, food processing industries and size of the holdings were very useful in developing a strategy which would make all countries in the world self-reliant in food. He suggested that the World Census of Agriculture (WCA) 2010 should be conducted with proper preparation and that experts should be invited to share their experiences in agriculture census in the countries that would be conducting such censuses.

3. HE Bhuria appreciated the effort of several countries including Japan, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam for using the Optical Character Reader (OCR) technique to speed up the release of their statistics. He, likewise, reported that India had used the RS technology to generate advance estimates of cropped area. He cautioned that in India the use of this technology was limited to a few crops at this time, but that a scheme had been formulated to expand the coverage to more crops. He encouraged other countries to intensify their efforts to use the latest techniques although it would require more investments in agriculture to facilitate modernisation.

4. He also reported that the Government of India had identified focus areas for priority attention; examples included doubling of rural credit in three years, dry land farming and horticulture, creation of additional irrigation facilities, market support to farmers and crop insurance against production loss.

5. In conclusion, he encouraged all participants to make collective efforts to achieve the aim of eliminating hunger and hoped that the Session would be able to reach conclusions which would help to improve relations among countries.

6. Ms Radha Singh, Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, India, delivered the keynote address in which she referred to the importance of statistics and to the role of APCAS in the improvement of food and agriculture statistics. She stated that statistics was a vital tool for management and for policy decisions in every sector, but was of utmost importance in the agricultural sector which had high volatility. She further noted that statistics revealed the significance of agriculture in the economies of the Asian and Pacific countries, which accounted for about one-third of the total agricultural land of the world and for 73 percent of the world's agricultural population of which India had more or less 30 percent of the region's total. She further mentioned the sizeable contribution of agriculture to GDP and the dependency of many millions of people on agriculture for their livelihood and income. Hence, she felt that there was an imperative need for agricultural statistics to keep pace with the requirements of the times because these statistics were the very basis for evolving and deciding food, nutrition and agricultural policies.

7. Ms Singh noted that statistics were also necessary for monitoring production and productivity patterns and for determination of agricultural input requirements. In addition, she said, these agricultural statistics provided decision-makers with the basis for mid-course corrections in times of inadequate or deficient food grain production.

8. She stated that agricultural operations in many countries in the Asia and Pacific region suffered from inherent instability due to the vagaries of the weather; and that such instability was more pronounced in this region where rains were seasonal and large tracts of cultivable land were still under rainfed agriculture. She advised the Commission that comprehensive agricultural statistics provided the backbone of the country's buffer-stocking policies and food and nutrition security systems, including agricultural policies to meet the exigencies of the emerging situation. She mentioned that the large variation in productivity and in production figures convinced the Indian decision-makers that more and more areas needed to be brought under assured irrigation to insulate, at least partially, the agricultural operations from weather and climatic conditions which were becoming more complex not only in the Indian subcontinent, but all over the world. Since assurance of production for better markets and predictability of supply and presence of suitable infrastructure would be very dependent on good quality agriculture statistical data, she pointed out that such data were updated fully every year.

9. Ms Singh mentioned that because avenues of employment and opportunity in the developing countries were limited, it was important for the very large workforce depending on agriculture in Asia and the Pacific region to find gainful means of employment which were land based and within rural settings. However, she said that much more investment in the rural sector would be required to develop a vibrant agricultural economy based on value addition, food processing and other add-ons and encouraged more diversification towards newer crops and products.

10. She expressed satisfaction about the progress made in collection, compilation and dissemination of data on food and agriculture, but said that all data were not reliable and emphasized the need for constant and vigilant efforts to update and enlarge the domain of food and agriculture statistics at national and subnational levels for the countries in Asia and the Pacific region. She indicated that the future commodity market exchanges would depend on information and that the power of informatics would be one of the most significant ways of empowering the rural community and helping it to get remunerative prices and reasonable incomes.

11. She encouraged APCAS to continue its extremely important role in the review of the state of food and agricultural statistics in the region and in advising Member Nations on development and standardization of agricultural statistics and, through innovative recommendations and action points, to bring about improvements in food and agriculture statistics. She said that the Commission provided a platform for sharing experiences among the member countries, thus, opening avenues for improvement and further sophistication in data collection and collation through the use of modern technology like the RS and GIS. In conclusion she wished the conference success.

12. Mr Huh Yoon-Jin, Director-General of the Agricultural Information and Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Republic of Korea, representing the outgoing Chairperson of the Nineteenth Session of APCAS, pointed out in his address the economic and environmental importance of agriculture in his nation's development. He added that it provided crop and livestock products to the people and preserved the land and environment. He indicated that policy-makers needed reliable and up-to-date statistical data to cope with domestically and internationally changing environments and that farmers needed proper statistical data on agriculture to make the right decisions for their farm management. He further mentioned that information on each country's agriculture would become very important for decision-making, especially now that there was a trend of increasing trade among countries. He added that the rapid development in information and communication technology would facilitate the generation of required agricultural information and statistics. Hence, he encouraged the countries in the Asia and Pacific region to exchange information on agriculture and to develop this cooperation during the Twentieth Session of the Commission.

13. The opening statement of Mr He Changchui, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, was delivered by Mr Daniel Gustafson, FAO Representative for India and Bhutan. In his statement Mr He said that he was pleased to see the return of the APCAS Session to the site of its Second Session and expressed his gratitude to the Government of India for hosting the Session and for providing excellent facilities and an environment conducive to fruitful and productive discussions. He recognized the significant contribution made by India to the development of statistics throughout the region and the world and thanked the Minister of State for Agriculture for sparing his valuable time to inaugurate the Twentieth Session and the delegations from the 17 member countries attending the Session for their active involvement and continued interest in the activities of FAO in the field of food and agricultural statistics.

14. He reminded the Commission that in 1996 world leaders had formulated, in the first World Food Summit (WFS) Plan of Action, a global commitment to reduce by half the number of hungry people in the world by 2015. This commitment had been adopted by the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 and has been one of the targets set in the Millennium Development Goals. However, he said that during the 2002 WFS: five years later, the world leaders, noting that efforts to reduce the number of hungry had not met the short-term objectives, reaffirmed their commitment and resolved to accelerate progress toward meeting the WFS goals.

15. Mr He, referring to the latest FAO estimates, said that a large number of small-scale farmers remained trapped in subsistence agriculture with over 842 million people still suffering from micronutrient deficiencies and malnutrition, and called for the formulation of effective long-term, medium-term and short-term policies and programmes on food and agriculture development to tackle poverty and food insecurity problems. He informed the Commission that, in the course of formulating these policies and programmes, the policy-makers and planners would need to rely on timely and reliable statistics for an accurate description of the status and structure of the agriculture sector and for the analysis and projection of the existing trends. He suggested that the national statistical programmes, particularly the food and agricultural statistics component, should be designed to facilitate measurement of the progress made in achieving the WFS target and that adequate financial and resources should be allocated by governments to carry out the fundamental work. Accordingly, he called upon APCAS to focus on finding ways to provide decision-makers with indicators that would help determine appropriate policies to improve food security and alleviate poverty and that would provide methods for the evaluation of the impact of these policies. In turn, he said that these steps would be valuable for the continuing efforts of the United Nations in implementing and monitoring the MDGs and for the expansion by FAO in establishing and/or strengthening national Alliances Against Hunger. He also called for the creation of databases at the national and subnational levels using common data structures and compatible software to further facilitate the analysis and utilization of food and agricultural information. In addition, he emphasized the need for development of harmonized and standardized definitions in agricultural statistics to make global comparisons effective and meaningful.

16. Mr He informed the Commission that FAO had maintained and continued to improve the quality of the data in the World Agriculture Information Centre (WAICENT), enabling cross sectoral comparisons of information across the world. Furthermore, he indicated that FAO had initiated new actions to increase the effectiveness of the dissemination system of FAOSTAT databases through a user-friendly FAOSTAT2 with an enhanced capacity for analysis of information. He expressed hope that the APCAS Session would take this opportunity to discuss the current developments of FAOSTAT2 as well as its interface with the Regional Data Exchange System (RDES). He acknowledged the contribution of the Government of Japan in the development of RDES, in its continued support to strengthen food and agricultural statistics systems and in its efforts to further increase analytical capacities among the countries in the region.

17. Mr He underscored the needs of decision-makers for information on trade flows for early forecasts of production as a tool for improving planning for food and agricultural imports and exports. He recognized the value of RS technology and GIS for estimation of area and yield through early forecasting of crop production as well as their use as powerful tools for various stages of planning in fishery and forestry and believed that these new tools were extremely important for the development of guidelines for prevention, monitoring and mitigating major agricultural disasters. He recognized the complexity of the FAOSTAT-like database system with subnational level data, but stressed the substantial benefits of having such a system and the need for input from the Session into FAO's development of a prototype for "CountrySTAT". He also mentioned that FAO was in the process of preparing the guidelines for WCA 2010 and said that he would be looking forward to the recommendations of member countries in this context. In addition he recognized the role of APCAS for supporting the development of agricultural statistics in the region in the last 41 years. Finally, he assured the member countries of the availability of technical assistance from the FAO Regional Office in Bangkok and wished the delegates success in all the deliberations in the Session.

18. In his opening remarks Mr Hiek Som, Chief, Surveys and Statistical Development Service, FAO Statistics Division, said that it was a great honour to address the delegates from the APCAS member countries because the Session was held in New Delhi. He considered it a special occasion for the Commission to meet in India for the second time in its history and acknowledged that India was a world leader in many areas of agricultural statistics, especially in the development of objective methods for estimating crop yield and in agricultural statistics research. He expressed the sincere gratitude of the FAO Statistics Division to the Government of India for hosting the APCAS Session and for allowing the Commission to benefit from the country's rich experiences in the field of statistics.

19. He acknowledged the substantial contribution made by APCAS during its 41 years of existence to the development of agriculture statistics in the world. He indicated that one recent contribution was the recommendation for FAO to develop guidelines on aquaculture statistics within the framework of World Census of Agriculture and said that FAO had begun to develop the new programme for the World Census of Agriculture 2010. He briefly informed the Commission that the Statistics Division of FAO had undergone major changes and now had three services, instead of two services and one branch. He shared the information that the biennial budget of the Division had been reduced and the division needed to take advantage of availability of advanced information technology to improve its statistics dissemination activity. He underscored the potential of FAOSTAT2, which would have immense dissemination capabilities when fully developed by the end of 2005 and described the role of the Statistics Division of FAO in the exercise of monitoring progress towards the goal of the "World Food Summit: five years later".

20. Mr Som acknowledged the support extended by other organizations and donors including Japan for undertaking and organizing workshops and training courses for improving the statistical capacity of member countries. Finally, he expressed confidence that the recommendations of the Session would help to formulate a programme of work in food and agricultural statistics and wished all member countries a wonderful stay in New Delhi.

21. Mr Frederick Baker, APCAS Secretary, presented the vote of thanks. He mentioned that the vote of thanks was something very special because it meant that many people had spent many hours preparing for the improvement and strengthening of food and agricultural statistics in the region. He expressed his appreciation to the Government of India for hosting and organizing the Twentieth Session of APCAS. In particular, he thanked the group of individuals that had been directly responsible for the arrangements - the Economic and Social Adviser (Mr M.M. Nampoothiry) and his staff; the Liaison Officer (Mr Vijay Kumar); the Event Manager (Mr L.D. Wadwa) and his staff. He thanked the delegates who had filled out the questionnaire that replaced the country statement and who would make contributions to the discussions and recommendations in this Twentieth Session. He also thanked the host country participants who were acting as resource persons and who had prepared papers for the session and the staff who had helped in summarizing the results of the questionnaires. He expressed his thanks to the coordinators of the round table discussions, a new approach in making conclusions and recommendations for APCAS. He appreciated also the assistance of his colleagues in FAO Bangkok in preparing their significant contributions for this session and of his staff who were working behind the scene in support of this Session. Lastly, he thanked the Minister of State for Agriculture, the Secretary of Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, the FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, and the Statistics Division in Rome for their commitment and strong support in furthering the activities in the Asia and Pacific region.

22. Mr M.M. Nampoothiry, Economic and Statistical Adviser, Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, India, was unanimously nominated and elected as the Chairperson of the Twentieth Session. Mr Angsumal Sunalai, Deputy Secretary General of the National Statistics Office of Thailand was elected First Vice-Chairperson and Mr Aziz Othman, Chief Statistician of the Department of Statistics of Malaysia was elected Second Vice-Chairperson.

23. The Commission constituted a Drafting Committee composed of Ms Josie B. Perez (Philippines) who was elected Chairperson of the Committee, and representatives from Bhutan, India and Malaysia.

24. The Session adopted the agenda given in Appendix A. The list of delegates is given in Appendix B and the list of documents, in Appendix C. Speeches from the Opening of the Session are attached in Appendices D, E and F. The list of the member countries of the Commission, as of September 2004, is cited in Appendix G.

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