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H.E. Theerachai Saenkaew *

Dr He Changchui,
Assistant Director-General
and FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific,
Honourable guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very happy to be here today at this regional workshop to commemorate the International Year of the Potato deputizing for the Minister of Agriculture who had an unavoidable engagement elsewhere.

This workshop is being organized in response to the current global food situation, during which the prices of staple foods such as rice have been spiraling out of control. Many developing countries are seeking new alternative crops that have high productivity and a short growing cycle. The potato could be one of these alternatives.

Honourable guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Forty-two years ago, in 1966, rice became the first agricultural commodity to have a year dedicated to it. The year 2004 marked the second time that the United Nations (UN) dedicated a year to rice. This year, 2008, has been designated by the UN as the International Year of the Potato.

Increasing population has been a cause for concern in the world in general and in Asia and the Pacific region in particular. As you might have noticed in the media, food riots have been a common occurrence in many poor countries as poor people have responded to spiraling food prices and food shortages. Governments and international organizations have assumed responsibility to ensure that the growth in agricultural production keeps pace with the growth in population and to prevent suffering caused by hunger and malnutrition. This will necessarily involve increasing the productivity of staple crops such as rice, maize, wheat and potatoes.

The potato is truly a global crop grown in nearly 150 countries and ranking fourth after the major staple food crops maize, wheat and rice. There is no country in the world that is not familiar with this wonderful crop. It is a nourishing food that has sustained civilizations for centuries in South America and Europe. To the inhabitants of Peru and Bolivia, the potato was the “bread of life” for centuries. Just as in Thailand we believe that rice performs a similar function.

Today, the nations of this world are very much concerned about the quality of nutrition and food security, and Thailand is no exception. Here is a crop that can play an important role in maintaining food and nutrition security. In 2007, Thailand’s potato growing area was about 50 601 rai with a productivity of 2 520 kilograms per rai. We are looking for even higher potato production and productivity in Thailand.

We would like to express our gratitude to FAO and the Government of Peru for organizing this workshop to commemorate the International Year of the Potato - 2008. Many representatives and scientists from various countries have joined us to give their support and insights in order to develop and boost the production of the potato in Asia and the Pacific region.

Honourable guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

The food price crisis happening at the moment will only lessen if every country collaborates like they are doing today. I therefore hope that this regional workshop will be a success, and would like to officially inaugurate the opening of the Workshop to commemorate the International Year of the Potato - 2008.

Thank you.

* Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Rajdamnern Nok Avenue, Bangkok 10200, Thailand.

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