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Opening Statement by C.T.S. Nair - Senior Programme Advisor, Forestry Research Support Programme for Asia and the Pacific

Your Excellency, Lt. General Chit Swe, Minister of Forestry

Excellencies, Participants and Observers

Dear Colleagues and Friends

It is my privilege to welcome all of you to this Second Regional Seminar on Teak on behalf of my FAO forestry colleagues. I am especially happy to see that this seminar is held in Myanmar, which has the longest tradition in teak forest management.

Teak is one of the most important hardwood species planted extensively in several countries in the Asia-Pacific Region. The total area of teak bearing forests and plantations in the Region is estimated to be about 25 million hectares. Being indigenous to the Region, substantial experience has been gained in the management of natural and man-made stands of teak. Notwithstanding the large scale introduction of fast growing exotics like Eucalyptus and Acacia species, teak continues to be an important species, especially on account of the high quality of wood, the increasing demand, and the ease of cultivation and management. Growing private investment in teak plantations is a clear indication of the perceived potential of the species, although deforestation and unscientific management have substantially reduced the area of natural stands.

While problems in the countries in the Region are similar and considerable experience exists in dealing with them, there is no effective mechanism to share this and to facilitate the improvement of techniques for conservation, management and utilization of teak plantations and forests. The need for developing a suitable mechanism to facilitate exchange of information was discussed during the China/ESCAP/FAO Regional Seminar on Research and Development of Teak held at Guangzhou, China during March 1991. There was a general consensus to the proposal for establishing an "Asia-Pacific Network on Research and Development of Teak" (TEAK-NET).

The late Dr. Y.S. Rao, former Regional Forestry Officer in the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAP) and Senior Programme Adviser of the Forestry Research Support Programme for Asia and the Pacific (FORSPA), supported the initial networking activities. TEAK-NET began to grow and function. Unfortunately, there was a slackening of efforts after the tragic death of Dr. Rao in March 1993.

It was one year after his death when my colleagues began to discuss the revitalization of the TEAK-NET: Mr. M. Kashio, Regional Forestry Officer in RAP; Mr. D. Cameron, Chief Technical Advisor of the Strengthening Re-afforestation Programmes in Asia (STRAP); Dr. K. Vivekanandan, Chief Technical Advisor of the Improved Productivity of Man-made Forests through Breeding (FORTIP); and myself as the successor of Dr. Rao. This was the background which has led to the organization of this Second Regional Seminar on Teak today.

A proposal has been prepared to provide a formal structure to the network. This will be presented during the Seminar for discussion and comments. After the many reviews on the issues concerning teak, we hope that this gathering of experts will give a clear indication of the direction for strengthening efforts for sustainable management of natural teak forests and plantations.

I would like to express my appreciation to His Excellency Lt. General Chit Swe, the Minister of Ministry of Forestry in Myanmar. His enthusiastic and generous support has made this seminar possible to be organized in Yangon today. Also, I would like to acknowledge with great thanks the kind support given by U Myat Thin, Director General of the Planning and Statistics Department; Dr. Kyaw Tint, Deputy Director General of the Planning and Statistics Department; U Tin Hla, Director General of the Forest Department; U Khin Maung Mya, Deputy Director General of the Forest Department; and U Mehm Ko Ko Gyi, Director of the Watershed Management Division, the Forest Department. Mr. Dato Abdul Wahid Jalil, FAO Representative in Myanmar, extended his helpful hands during the arrangement of the seminar.

The task in front of us is huge, but I hope that our collaborative efforts will help to overcome the constraints and stimulate sustained interest in the development of teak in the Region.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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