His Excellency Somsavat Lengsavad (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Lao People's Democratic Republic)
It is a great honour for me to participate in this historic World Food Summit and to join our colleagues in the evaluation of the implementation of the 1996 Rome Declaration and Plan of Action.
We have noted that the rapid progress in science and technology, especially in agro-production technology, has increased efficiency and productivity in this field. However, it is unfortunate that the said achievement cannot help millions of world inhabitants escape from poverty and hunger. Worse than that, developing countries, in particular the least developed countries, the landlocked developing countries and small island developing states, are still experiencing a number of difficulties such as constant threat from natural disasters, lack of resources for the development of basic infrastructure required for sustainable agricultural development. Furthermore, the price of many agricultural products has declined substantially. Many developing countries have been confronted with trade tariffs barriers and others.
The Lao PDR, in response to the political will emerging from the World Food Summit in 1996, has given high priority to investment in the agricultural and integrated rural development sector, namely, the construction of irrigation systems, leading to the increase of dry season irrigated areas from 25 000 ha in 1996 to 128 000 ha in the year 2000. We have also built research and extension centres to develop newly improved varieties of plants and animals that are suitable for local conditions. These again have been attained thanks to the promotion of wide people’s participation, including those of different domestic economic sectors, as well as to the opening up of the country's external relations.
By so doing, agricultural production has grown at a rather satisfactory pace. Since 1999 we have been able to produce more than two million metric tonnes of paddy rice. And, based on the national average, there is a self-sufficiency in rice and even some surplus, an important landmark of historic significance in the development of agriculture in the Lao PDR.
However, we are still faced with many problems similar to those of the other developing countries. As mentioned above, in order to address these shortcomings, the Lao Government has outlined a social economic development policy for the first years of the 21st century, particularly in the area of agriculture and forestry, as well as in rural development with over-reaching objectives, as follows: the eradication of opium poppy cultivation by 2005 and the ending of slash and burn cultivation by 2010, with emphasis placed on job security and protection of the environment along with the sustainable use of natural resources, the realization of an agricultural growth rate of four to five percent per year that would lift Laos out of the LDC status by 2020 and that would lay down a strong foundation for the country's industrialization.
Madam Chairperson, we strongly hope that, after the conclusion of this important meeting, the developed countries and international financial institutions will redouble their efforts to adopt concrete measures and actively join the international community to combat hunger and poverty suffered by the majority of the world population as stipulated in the United Nations Millennium Summit.
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