1. At the invitation of Royal Government of Thailand, the Twenty-first Session of the Asia and Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics (APCAS) was organized by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) at Phuket, Thailand from 11 to 15 September 2006. The Session was attended by a total of 72 participants, including 60 delegates from 20 member countries. Ten representatives of FAO, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) participated in the Session. One observer each from Timor-Leste and Thailand also attended. The list of participants and observers is given in Appendix B.
2. The Twenty-first Session of APCAS commenced with the inaugural address by Ms Thananoot Treetipbut, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Royal Government of Thailand. Extending a warm welcome to the participants, she stated that this privilege to host the Session of APCAS was significant as it coincided with the Thai people's celebration of the Sixtieth Anniversary of the King's accession to the throne. She highlighted the importance of agriculture in the economy on account of the preponderance of the population dependent on the sector, in the Asia and Pacific Region in general, and in Thailand, in particular. She noted, however, that poverty in rural areas persisted despite overall decline in global, regional and even national levels of poverty, as reflected in the progress made so far towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This had posed a challenge for policy-makers and planners.
3. Ms Treetipbut invited the attention of the Commission to the rapid structural changes that were taking place in the economy in the process of globalization. These changes had necessitated a greater need for the country's management to evolve balanced, sustainable, and cohesive national and subnational strategies to ensure the continuity of agricultural development. This objective, in turn, required that a qualitative, standardized, timely and responsive statistical system be put in place.
4. The Deputy Permanent Secretary stressed that the national statistical system must work in close collaboration and coordination among data producers and data users, within the country as well as across the region, as it strived to fulfill its mission of establishing a policy-making environment that relied on quantitative indicators, professional independence and objectivity. The national statistical system must be anchored on the high credibility and strong reputation of its staff and adequacy of its information technology and human resource infrastructure. "The Philosophy of Sufficiency Economy: the King's Philosophy", which was the main theme of the draft Five-Year National Economic and Social Development Plan to be implemented during 2007-2010, provided guidance on the direction to be followed.
5. Welcoming the delegates, Ms Jirawan Boonperm, Deputy Secretary-General, National Statistical Office Thailand thanked FAO for choosing Thailand as the host country for the APCAS Session and hoped that the Commission would continue the tradition of shaping a positive vision for the future of agricultural statistics. She wished for a productive and enjoyable stay of the delegates at Phuket.
6. Recalling the rewarding experience of hosting the last session of APCAS in New Delhi, September 2004, the Outgoing Chairman Mr S.M. Jharwal, Principal Adviser, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India stated that the deliberation had encouraged the process of sharing information for strengthening the agricultural statistics in the region. He acknowledged the enduring efforts of the countries of the Asia and Pacific region for sustaining the accelerated economic growth, which had been improving the well-being of the people and reducing the food insecurity and incidence of poverty. The Outgoing Chairman noted that the countries in the region had experienced some of the worst natural disasters in recent years but that in the face of these crises, strong regional cooperation for reconstruction and recovery had been clearly demonstrated. He stated that the role of statistics relating to rural economy had since assumed a much greater significance in measuring the impact of the policies and programmes, especially in monitoring achievements of Millennium Development Goals relating to poverty.
7. Mr S.M. Jharwal informed the Commission of the major developments in India since the last Session, particularly the launching of the project "Forecasting Agricultural Output using Space, Agro-meteorology and Land-based Observations (FASAL)" which aimed to complement and supplement the existing system of agricultural statistics. He also related that a permanent National Statistical Commission (NSC) had been positioned to serve as a nodal and empowered body for all core statistical activities in the country, including agricultural statistics. It was mandated to evolve, monitor and enforce statistical priorities and ensure coordination among different agencies involved.
8. In his statement, Mr He Changchui, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific of FAO, welcomed the participants to this Session of APCAS on behalf of the Director-General of FAO and on his personal behalf. He expressed his gratitude to the Royal Government of Thailand for taking keen interest in the work of the Commission, for hosting this Session and for providing excellent facilities for fruitful and productive discussions. He also thanked the member countries for their overwhelming response to FAO's invitation to this Session.
9. Mr He noted the emerging structural transformation of the agriculture sector in many countries in the wake of globalization of economies in the world. In this connection, he expressed the concern of the policy-makers on the issues of diversion of agricultural land for urban and industrial purposes, degradation of existing agricultural land, sinking water table in some areas, and land affected by water-logging. Inadequate and inappropriate use of fertilizers and pesticides were also cited as areas of concern. He noted that these trends must be contained. He added that strategies must be formulated to provide food and nutritional security to the rural areas in this region, which were largely characterized by subsistence agriculture.
10. Mr He related that these same issues confronted the representatives from government and civil society organizations who met for the International Conference on Agrarian Reforms and Rural Development (ICARRD) in March 2006, in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The ICARRD declaration signed by about 100 countries gave FAO the mandate to adopt appropriate measures to implement the decisions, to evolve reporting guidelines and to identify the indicators to monitor the implementation. The statisticians of member countries would, therefore, have to expand their professional concerns to include agrarian reform and rural development domains which support adoption of people-centred approaches. Mr He noted that this Commission would have the opportunity to deliberate on these issues during the session on "Statistics on Rural Household's Livelihood and Well-Being".
11. Mr He made special mention of the work done under the Japan-assisted project on development of Regional Data Exchange System (RDES) that had been catalytic in strengthening agricultural statistics systems in the region. The project also contributed in further increasing the analytical capacities in the countries.
12. Mr He highlighted the leading role played by FAO in reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts for the benefit of people affected by natural calamities and the importance of national statistical professionals in providing data for damage assessment, impact mitigation and long term rehabilitation. He urged the member countries to seek new initiatives and to set priorities for furthering this process.
13. In the address of Mr Haluk Kasnakoglu, Director, Statistics Division, FAO, read by Mr Hiek Som, Chief, Surveys and Statistical Development Service, FAO Statistics Division, he expressed extreme satisfaction on the participation of some 60 senior statisticians from 21 countries (including an observer from Timor-Leste) in this Commission Session, making this the highest attendance in recent years. He thanked the governments of member countries for taking a keen interest in the work of the Commission and demonstrating their growing support to statistical activities pursued by FAO. Updating the Commission on the initiatives of the Statistics Division during the last two years, he highlighted the distinct features of modernized FAO statistical database on agriculture, the FAOSTAT that had undergone a major overhaul after a decade. This was done by upgrading supporting hardware to host a larger data base for better analysis and capability of exchanging data with most of the international databases. The thematically structured FAOSTAT system was now a full matrix of integrated and compatible statistics on 200 countries and on more than 200 primary products and input items. These were configured as core and satellite database covering areas such as agricultural production, consumption, trade, prices and resources and were integrated to permit simple and flexible data exchanges. The core of updated FAOSTAT also provided metadata, or "information on statistics", which were as important as the numbers themselves.
14. During the development of the new FAOSTAT, a need for a compatible product at country level, one that would enable a better organization of the data collected by different agencies on different aspects of agriculture, was recognized. The Statistics Division had thus developed a product, called CountrySTAT that had the capability to integrate the efforts of several data producers within a country, and served to be a "one-stop shop" to users of agricultural statistics. In addition, FAO had undertaken an initiative to consolidate the metadata database of national agricultural statistics of the member countries.
15. Mr Kasnakoglu also described the main features of the "World Programme for the Census of Agriculture 2010" (WCA 2010), the decennial programme stewarded by FAO since 1950 that had facilitated the international comparison of data on structural aspects of agriculture. In the new World Programme, the objectives of the agricultural censuses were extended to allow for collection of MDG related data. The programme advocated a modular approach to the planning of agricultural census and surveys which could provide a cost-effective option. The programme also gave guidance on the collection of community-level data.
16. Delivering the keynote address, Mrs Anchalee Ooraikul, Secretary-General, Office of Agricultural Economics, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Thailand extended a warm welcome to the delegates and expressed happiness on the return of APCAS Session once again to Thailand after 16 years. Referring to the rapid development of the industrial sector in the region as compared to agriculture, she conveyed her concern on a lack of attraction of agriculture. This could result in relocation of labour force that could cause social and economic problems in the countries. There was, therefore, a need to make agriculture more competitive by enhancing productivity, increasing incomes and improving resources utilization by re-orienting policies and plans for the sector. In this context she acknowledged the importance of social development based on knowledge and information. She stressed the importance of the global information since changes in production and consumption of a certain agricultural commodity in one country may affect its supply and demand in another country. Against this background, the project of ASEAN Food Security Information System (AFSIS) had been conceived to facilitate planning for food security in the region through systematic collection, organization, management, analysis and dissemination of food security information. She hoped that the deliberations in this Session of APCAS would bring out better understanding and cooperation among countries and contribute to the improvement of food and agricultural statistics in the region.
17. The APCAS Secretary thanked the Royal Government of Thailand for hosting this 21st Session of the Commission. He was especially grateful to the Thai Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, particularly the National Statistical Office, and the Thai Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, especially the Office of Agricultural Economics for the excellent arrangements made for the Session. Acknowledging the participation of twenty out of twenty-four member countries of the Commission, he thanked the respective member countries' governments for their keen interest in the activities of the Commission. He also welcomed Timor-Leste as an observer in this Commission Session. He appreciated the interest of two development partners, JICA and SEAFDEC, for taking part in this conference. He thanked the delegates and his colleagues from FAO Headquarters, as well as from the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, who made technical contributions. Finally, he appreciated the efforts put in by the Thai Organizing Committee led by Ms Rajana Netsaengtip, Liaison Officer for the Session, for their untiring efforts in organizing the Session.
18. Ms Jirawan Boonperm, Deputy Secretary-General, National Statistical Office Thailand and Head of the Thai delegation was unanimously elected the Chairperson of the Twenty-first Session. Mr Shamsudin bin Abdul Aziz, Head of the Malaysian delegation, was elected as the First Vice-Chairperson and Mr Ebrahim Sarmadi, Head of the Iranian delegation, was elected as the Second Vice-Chairperson.
19. The Commission also unanimously elected Mr Romeo Recide (Philippines) as the Chairperson of the Drafting Committee. Mr Allan Nicholls (Australia), Mr Rajiv Mehta (India), Ms Chalermkwun Chiemprachanarakorn (Thailand) and Mr Hiek Som and Mr M.K. Srivastava of FAO were co-opted as members of the Committee.
20. The Session adopted the Agenda given in Appendix A. The list of documents is given in Appendix C. The speeches and addresses delivered in the opening Session are attached in Appendix D (Inaugural Address), Appendix E (Welcome Statement), Appendix F (Opening Address), and Appendix G (Keynote Address). The list of the member countries of the Commission, as of September 2006, is cited in Appendix H.