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(Item 5 of the Agenda)

37. Statements outlining the situations of food and agricultural statistics in the countries of the Asia and Pacific region represented in the Session were presented to the Commission. The country statements were generally structured according to a format established in previous sessions. They included discussions on: (i) recent and proposed changes in the statistical organisations relating to food and agriculture; (ii) agricultural and related surveys undertaken and plans for the future, including those on the census of agriculture; (iii) recent innovative activities and measures undertaken since the last Commission Session; (iv) progress on environmental statistics and (v) outstanding problems.

38. The Commission noted that although country presentations gave the discussion points varying degrees of emphasis, according to their priorities, they shared a common underlying theme - that of a recognition of the limitations and deficiencies of their current practices in obtaining food and agricultural statistics, and a strong commitment to improve them at every opportunity.

39. The Commission was pleased to hear that continuous progress was being made in improving the quality of statistical services through a combination of measures. These included: improvement of methodologies; providing increased training; extending the scope and coverage of programs; developing and improving computer processing systems; and enhancing dissemination systems, particularly with respect to the utilisation of Internet facilities. The Commission was also pleased to hear that some of the progress was achieved with assistance from bilateral and multilateral donor organisations.

40. The Commission noted the continued importance of agriculture to the economies of countries in the Region, where it formed a significant part of gross domestic products. The Commission further observed, however, that the recent regional economic crisis could limit the amount of resources made available to improve statistical systems in member countries, at least during the next several years.

41. The Commission noted the wide variation in the statistical organisations of countries in Asia and the Pacific. Some countries had highly centralised systems; others had adopted varying degrees of decentralisation coupled with a national statistical coordinating body. The Commission noted the strengths and weaknesses of the different statistical systems in the Region and country-specific problems arising from the existing arrangements. It took particular note of the problems associated with coordination, validation, duplication and inconsistencies in food and agricultural statistics in some countries. The Commission was pleased to note that some of the countries had enacted laws that would strengthen their national statistical systems.

42. The Commission was pleased to note that many countries in the Region now had regular programmes for agricultural censuses. Some countries had started implementation of their first censuses mostly with technical assistance and training from FAO with funding from donor agencies. The Commission noted with interest that the collection of annual commodity statistics by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) had changed from a census to a sample survey basis beginning with the 1997-98 reference year.

43. The Commission noted that the accurate estimation of cropped areas continued to present problems for some countries, but was pleased to hear that a range of strategies were being adopted to improve area estimates.

44. The Commission was interested to learn that differences existed in the priorities between and within countries on data quality issues. In some countries timeliness was given foremost importance, while in others, priority was given to other user-driven considerations. It also acknowledged the need for diversification in statistical activities to cover forecasting, early warning systems, and market information systems.

45. The Commission recognised the interest expressed by some countries in the development of environmental statistics alongside agricultural data. It also recognised the need to take a balanced and global approach in measuring the impacts on the environment of both agricultural and non-agricultural activities.

46. The Commission was pleased to receive a report on the activities of ESCAP, SEAFDEC and SIAP as they relate to the work of FAO in general, and the Commission in particular. It acknowledged ESCAP’s invitation for RAP to present a paper on the agricultural statistical activities of the Commission in the next ESCAP Committee on Statistics meeting.

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