From the podium

From the podium


His Excellency Nyunt Tin (Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation, Union of Myanmar)

Madam Chairperson,
Excellencies,
Dr Jacques Diouf,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I deem it an honour to have this opportunity of addressing the World Food Summit: five years later. May I also convey the hearty greetings and good wishes from my Head of State, Senior General Than Shwe, Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council of the Union of Myanmar.

May we, at the same time, express our appreciation to the Director-General of FAO, Dr Jacques Diouf and his staff for successfully organizing this Summit meeting at this timely juncture.

Five years have passed since world leaders pledged their political wills and national commitments to achieving food security for all at the World Food Summit in Rome, in 1996. But despite their resolute efforts, FAO estimates that 826 million people still remain undernourished. It clearly indicates that the path we have all traversed since 1996 has not been tranquil. The fragile and vulnerable nature of agricultural production in the face of natural, as well as economic calamities, was extremely vivid.

As the world entered the new Millennium, all developing countries strived to adjust to the relentless process of globalization and the complex challenges facing agriculture and of global food security. Their efforts, however, were often adversely affected by events beyond their control, leading to further complications in the precarious food security situation. It has largely been due to both inadequate and diminishing international funding for agriculture and rural development and the non-removal of barriers to international agricultural trade, both of which are still significant obstacles.

May I, in brief, outline the state of food and agriculture in my country. An average annual agricultural sector growth of six percent was achieved during the second five- year plan period of 1996-97 to 2000-2001. I have great pleasure in informing this august assembly that Myanmar's 1996 World Food Summit follow-up programme is on track, and that we are confident of meeting most of our World Food Summit action plans.

Land utilization and irrigation also made tangible advances. During the period, the new sown area increased to 10.42 million hectares and the irrigation area to almost two million hectares, or 19 percent of the gross sown area. Since 1988, altogether 134 irrigation projects were further brought into operation. High priority given to investment in irrigation, despite the budget constraints in the midst of global financial crisis, clearly indicates the Government of Myanmar's strong commitments towards food security for all.

Similarly, the Government of Myanmar has spared no efforts in its endeavours to enhance the living conditions of the rural populace, including those residing in the remote border areas. It has implemented integrated rural development programmes to meet basic needs, not just in terms of food, clothing and shelter, but also health care and education, by establishing 24 development zones throughout the country.

The border areas of Myanmar comprise an uninterrupted range of forested mountains and hilly regions and, incidentally, remain the home of Myanmar's ethnic national races, formerly traditionally steeped in subsistence agriculture. Over the years, the mountain areas have been subjected to shifting cultivation, resulting in destruction of forests and biodiversity. Recently, substantial technical, administrative and financial assistance have been provided for a shift over to permanent cultivation and/or systematic sloping agriculture. The programme also includes the eradication of opium poppy from some of the highland areas, and the return of most former ethnic armed groups to the legal fold has accorded tangible progress to the programmes.

Sustainable agriculture and continuing increases in food output remain crucial for positive improvements in the standard of living of the underprivileged and needy masses, and it has become an urgent issue, in particular for developing countries.

Circumstances accordingly highlight the urgent need for world leaders to focus more attention towards this age-old problem of alleviating the burden of poverty and hunger, nationally and collectively. There is no time for procrastination. The goal may be daunting, but is definitely not impossible and not beyond reach. A strong and determined international coalition and commitment are necessary to eradicate this tragic scourge from the world.

Myanmar remains committed to its pledge made at the World Food Summit, and it is my sincere and genuine belief that, with our renewed commitment and concerted efforts, the goal of the World Food Summit can be accomplished.

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