(Item 6 of the Agenda)
47. The document APCAS/98/5 Progress Report on Project GCP/RAS/171/JPN - Improvement of Agricultural Statistics in Asia and Pacific Countries was presented to inform the Commission of the progress made on this project. The Commission was reminded that this task had been undertaken as a follow-up to a recommendation made during its Sixteenth Session in Tokyo.
48. The Commission was informed that immediately after the Session in Tokyo, continuous consultation between the APCAS Secretariat and Japans Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had been made to facilitate the formulation of the Project Document. The document was approved in early 1998. The Project was funded by the Government of Japan, and FAO was designated as the executing agency.
49. The Project would cover the following 18 developing member countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Iran, Republic of Korea, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
50. The Commission was informed that the Project had set two immediate objectives, thus: (i) national development strategies and plans drawn up for improvement of food and agricultural statistics and information, for implementation in participating countries; and (ii) plan for the establishment of a data base and equipment facilities, in a number of countries, to provide a capability to transfer data in electronic format both to and from countries in the Region, and FAO, using common concepts, standards and classifications.
51. The Commission welcomed this Project as a timely step to improve information sharing and dissemination. It, however, forewarned that some member countries might be unable to provide financial support necessary to meet their respective obligations to institutionalize and maintain the envisioned regional information exchange. The Commission though expressed optimism that, through the Project, bilateral or multilateral donor agencies might be willing to fund technical assistance to member countries as needed at the earliest opportunity.
52. As an initial activity of the Project, a draft questionnaire had been prepared as a tool for collecting basic information for the in-depth studies on the national food and agricultural statistical systems in participating countries. The member countries were requested to review and comment on the draft questionnaire at the earliest opportunity.
53. The Commission recommended that in order to increase the utility of the expected outputs of the Project, consultations with the private sector as possible data user of the system should be included in its activities.
54. The Commission also requested member countries to expedite the nominations of focal points to facilitate project implementation.