APRC/00/1 Provisional Annotated Agenda
APRC/00/2 Actions Taken on the Main Recommendations of the 24th Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific and Other FAO Activities in the Region (1998-99)
APRC/00/3 World Food Summit Follow-up
APRC/00/4 Sustainable Agricultural Development and Poverty Alleviation in the New Millennium: Reflections and Lessons from the Asian Crisis
APRC/00/5 Implications and Development of Biotechnology

APRC/00/INF/1 Information Note
APRC/00/INF/2 Provisional Timetable
APRC/00/INF/3 Provisional List of Documents
APRC/00/INF/4 Director-General's Statement
APRC/00/INF/5 Representation of the Region on the CGIAR

APRC/00/OD/1 Order of the Day
APRC/00/OD/2 Order of the Day
APRC/00/OD/3 Order of the Day
APRC/00/OD/4 Order of the Day
APRC/00/OD/5 Order of the Day




    It is a great pleasure for me that the FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific is being held in Japan with the attendance of a number of Ministers from Asia and Pacific countries after lapse of twenty-six years since the last hosting.

    Though Asian countries once achieved very rapid economic growth, often called a "miracle", from 1997 to 1999, these countries faced great economic difficulties due to financial and economic crises in the region. During the crises, a number of these countries including Japan made serious efforts in economic reform, while facing big economic difficulties. As a result, Asian economy has survived the turmoil and has been in the process of steady recovery.

    Asian nations experienced, in the course of the crisis, a drastic drawback in their achievements made in the past of poverty eradication and reduction of undernourished. The economic crises have taught us various lessons not only in the field of economic policies but also that of overall agricultural policy including food security.

    With 21st Century arriving very shortly, it is extremely important for the leaders who are responsible for agricultural policies in the Asia-Pacific region to come together, to review the past overall agricultural policy of the region based on the experiences during the economic crisis and to have a frank exchange of their views on future policy orientation.

    Almost a half-century has passed since Japan joined FAO in 1951. Since then, economy and agriculture of Asian and Pacific countries, without mentioning Japan, have made a remarkable progress and have gone through drastic changes.

    The Asia-Pacific region embraces almost a half of world's total population. However, the region's land area is only one-fifth of the world's land area. In addition, the economy in the region about a half-century ago relied heavily on agriculture and its productivity was extremely low. Under such circumstances so called "Green Revolution", with the FAO's contributions as well, from late 1960s to early 1970s, brought about significant improvements in productivity which contributed greatly to the alleviation of poverty in rural areas and also to the reduction of hunger, both of which were considered very difficult to overcome.

    I believe these distinguished achievements in the past are mainly attributable to the efforts by farmers and those who are engaged in agriculture as well as to the contributions by respective governments and FAO. I would like to express my deep respect for these tireless efforts and remarkable contributions made by the various parties concerned.

    Yet all these achievements have not solved all the problems. In recent years in particular, we have witnessed negative aspects of development, for example, adverse effects of intensive production on the environment and degradation and depletion of production resources. These seem to be many issues yet to cope with, such as problems resulting from the progress of globalisation and short-term turmoils caused by natural disasters and conflicts.

    Realization of food security and sustainable agricultural and rural development by jointly addressing these problems and fully utilising limited global resources in a sustainable manner, is a common responsibility and an issue for each nation and international communities including FAO to deal with.

    The World Food Summit, which was held in 1996 under the strong leadership of Dr. Diouf, was the culmination of concrete objectives for each nation to pursue in the fields of food, agriculture and rural areas based on various international initiatives such as Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Effective implementation of the Plan of Action to which leaders of member countries committed during the World Food Summit is a matter of urgency.

    I would like to call for the reaffirmation by countries participating in this Regional Conference of the recognition of the fact that there are 800 million undernourished people in the world and two-third of that population are in the Asia-Pacific region and there is a need to seriously address and overcome this problem.

    Throughout the years, I have been consistently stressing the importance of education and capacity building. In my view human capacity building in the field of food and agriculture is indispensable for solution of a global issue of reduction of undernourished population. I am convinced that equipping each people with enough technical capacity so as to enhance productivity in agriculture, will provide a good basis for sustainable development in food and agriculture.

    FAO, the largest specialised agency of the United Nations in the field of food and agriculture, has been playing an important and irreplaceable role particularly in analytical work related to food and agriculture, technical assistance to developing countries, policy advice and international rules and standard setting. Reference in the G8 Communiqué of the recent Kyusyu-Okinawa Summit Meeting to the FAO's role in the field of biotechnology and food safety is a good example.

    I highly appreciate the FAO's activities based on its excellent knowledge and expertise and do hope that FAO will make consistent efforts in solving problems of each region through various activities such as technical assistance including human capacity building and policy advise and through strengthening collaborations with other international organizations.

    At this Conference I also hope that a frank exchange of views on current problems and future issues in the Asia-Pacific region will take place and that a positive and strong message of effective agricultural policy for the new century will be forthcoming.

    I would like to conclude my remarks by expressing my hope that this Regional Conference will provide valuable opportunities to reaffirm their political will towards the common goal of achieving the objectives of the World Food Summit.

    Thank you for your attention.




    It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to the Twenty-fifth FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, which is on this occasion being held in Japan at the kind invitation of the Government. Today we are gathered in Yokohama which together with Tokyo make up the largest conurbation in the world.

    I should like to express, on behalf of all the delegations and the staff of FAO, my sincere gratitude to the Government and people of Japan - the land of the rising sun - for their warm welcome and generous hospitality.

    I should like to thank in particular H.E. Yoshiro Mori, the Prime Minister of Japan, who honours us with his presence at this opening ceremony. This bears witness to the great importance that the highest authorities of this great nation attach to alleviating hunger and poverty in the Asia-Pacific region and throughout the world.

(State of food and agriculture in the world)

    The world is undergoing rapid globalisation and growing interdependence, with economic borders opening increasingly.

    The estimates for world cereal production in 1999 have recently been revised upwards and now stand at 1.9 billion tonnes. This is, however, one percent down from 1998, and two percent down from 1997, which was a particularly good year. The only expected increase is for rice, while wheat and other cereal harvests will be lower. For the first time in four years, projected cereal consumption will exceed production. This will require a drawdown of 8 million tonnes from stocks, which will therefore amount to 334 million tonnes. Such a level guarantees a stock-to-utilisation ratio within the safety margin of 17 to 18 percent.

    For these reasons, the 1999/2000 marketing season could register an increase in world cereal trade of over three percent, equivalent to a volume of 222 million tonnes. However, cereal prices on world markets are generally lower than last year, a positive factor for cereal-importing developing countries and countries in transition.

    We can also observe an encouraging sign in the fisheries sector, which registered a partial recovery in output in 1999, after the heavy falls in production of the previous year.

    But the most positive factor is the indication in the FAO report on the State of Food Insecurity in the World of a reduction by 40 million, between 1990-92 and 1995-97, of the total number of undernourished people in the developing countries. This average annual reduction of about 8 million people is encouraging, but is still far below the figure of 20 million required to achieve the objective of the World Food Summit.

(Emergency situations)

    Against this global picture, 35 countries have been faced with food emergencies. At the end of 1999, the number of persons affected by food emergencies resulting primarily from natural and man-made disasters was estimated at about 52 million. However, data indicate that their relative frequency has changed over the last thirty years. Whilst in the 1970s and 1980s food emergencies were mainly the result of natural factors, in more recent years there has been a constant increase in man-made disasters - especially war, civil strife and financial and economic crises.

    In Africa, emergency situations arise in particular from civil strife and recurrent drought. In addition, a number of countries were also hit during March/April this year by three cyclones which caused extensive damage to housing and infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and health centres, telecommunications, as well as crops, particularly tree crops. In Asia, millions of people have seen their basic access to food eroded by declining purchasing power as several economies were devastated by the financial crisis of 1997/98. Of particular concern is the situation in Mongolia where the worst winter in 30 years killed several hundred thousand livestock seriously affecting the livelihood and food security of a quarter of the country's population. In Latin America, many countries are still suffering from the devastation caused by El Niño and Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and compounded by torrential rains and floods in 1999. In addition, in December last year, a severe cyclone and extensive floods hit Venezuela, while Paraguay and Uruguay are affected by prolonged drought. In the Near East, the worst drought in decades seriously reduced food production in several countries in 1999. In this part of the world, as in a number of countries of Europe, in addition to weather fluctuations, the problem of access to water for food production will undoubtedly be the main cause of food supply problems in the future.

    The role of FAO in such a context is more important than ever, assessing the food and agriculture situation, determining food aid needs and informing the international community, thanks to its Global Information and Early Warning System that works together with an extensive network of governmental and non-governmental organizations. FAO's expertise is also invaluable within the framework of consolidated appeals for humanitarian assistance and, especially, by providing direct assistance to farmers. During last year and this year, FAO has implemented 36 emergency projects (both national and regional) for a total value of approximately US$15 million in 14 countries of Asia and the Pacific. The emergency operations aimed at the rehabilitation of the agricultural sectors damaged by natural disasters, such as snowstorms in Mongolia, drought in Pakistan, Tajikistan and Iran, floods in Bangladesh, cyclones in India and Tonga, and/or civil strife such as in East Timor, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines.

    Assistance is provided by distributing essential agricultural inputs such as seeds, tools, fertiliser, pesticides and fishing gear and, in a few cases, through livestock restocking. Technical advice has been given through the recruitment of international and national specialists, officers from technical units at FAO Headquarters and Regional Offices, and through the organization of workshops at both national and regional levels.

(Other "crises")

    But the world is also increasingly faced with other "crises". These relate to the quality and especially the safety of food products, and to the impact of new agricultural techniques resulting mainly from rapid advances in biotechnology. Recent issues facing governments have included the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (more widely known as "mad cow") crisis, the presence of dioxins in the food chain, and the marketing of products containing genetically modified organisms.

    This is an area where FAO will undoubtedly be called upon to play a greater role. Public opinion, sensitised by the media, wants objective information on possible risks and requires effective measures of protection. While such "crises" have occurred in developed countries, they create concern for the authorities and populations of developing countries and countries in transition that do not have sufficient analytical capacity.

    The Organization is responding to these challenges and demands. Its appropriate bodies, such as the Commission on Genetic Resources, are working on the drafting of codes of conduct. An inter-departmental programme has been initiated to deal with all the technical aspects of the issues involved. The programmes of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques for Food and Agriculture will be reinforced to increase their contribution in these areas.

    As for questions of ethics, these are being examined by an internal committee supported by a panel of experts. The Codex Alimentarius remains the leading instrument for determining international standards - a crucial activity in a context of globalisation and growing trade.

(State of food and agriculture in the Asia and the Pacific region)

    I should like now to focus on the recent changes and underlying trends in the Asia-Pacific region. The performance of the agriculture sector in this region - encompassing crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry - has been encouraging. Home to over 3.4 billion people, 57 percent of the world's population, the region has experienced sustained economic and agricultural growth in the past three decades. There has consequently been a decline in the incidence of poverty in the region.

    The Asia-Pacific region has attained the highest growth rates in livestock amongst all developing regions. Milk output increased annually by 4 percent and meat output by 7 percent over the last decade. Economic growth and improving consumer incomes have led to significant increases in per capita consumption of meat, dairy products and eggs. The particular challenge now is to supply the rapidly expanding urban centres with food of animal origin.

    Global fish production more than doubled in the last decade and the Asia-Pacific region has continued to be a major supplier. Over 90 percent of global aquaculture output and 52 percent of capture fisheries originate from the region. Five countries from the region are among the top ten producers in the world. However, global output of capture fisheries started to decline in 1998, confirming the pressing need for the sustainable management of fishery resources.

    Forest management is more complex here than anywhere else in the world. Many countries have stepped up their efforts to reverse the negative trends of deforestation and forest degradation. Particular attention has been placed on protecting the rich biological resources of the region's remaining natural forests and on controlling forest fires that cause so much damage. At the same time, countries cannot afford to stop harvesting their forests, for the Asia-Pacific region includes several of the world's major producers of forest products, as well as its biggest consumers. International trade and the marketing of forest products are and will therefore continue to be highly sensitive and challenging issues.

    At the time of the last Regional Conference 1998, the region was facing bleak prospects because of the Asian financial crisis. Today there is renewed hope and optimism thanks to the subsequent recovery, in which agriculture played a key part. All the subregions are posting improved growth performances. In 1999, the newly industrialised countries grew by about 7 percent and growth performance in the developing countries of the region also improved.

    In Southeast Asia, the countries hit by the financial crisis recovered in 1999 with a strength and speed that exceeded expectations. The developing countries of East and South Asia that escaped the negative effects of the crisis were able to continue their growth, and most of the Pacific island countries increased their levels of economic growth, from an average of 1.2 percent in 1998 to 4.4 percent in 1999. Finally, in some parts of Central Asia where the economic situation remains precarious, there are signs that the negative impact of the Russian financial crisis began to soften in 1999.

    Against this background, agricultural output recovered in 1998 and 1999, led by gains in staple food production, after a growth rate of 2.6 percent in 1997, the lowest of the decade. And even though relatively poor climatic conditions and particularly serious floods and natural disasters constrained production in some areas, the quick response of governments did much to redress the situation. As a result, aggregate cereal stocks in developing countries of the Asia-Pacific region rose significantly, reaching 128-129 million tonnes.

    A bumper rice crop and increased output in numerous sectors, notably fisheries, horticultural crops and livestock, all contributed to growth in 1999, offsetting the slowdown in industry and services in the crisis-hit economies. The sector was able to absorb displaced labour, provide a social safety net, earn foreign exchange and generate resources for domestic investment.

    However, despite the impressive performance in food and agricultural production in the last quarter of a century, some 525 million people - about a fifth of the region's total population - are still chronically undernourished. Although the number of poorly fed people is projected to decline by the year 2010, the region will still account for approximately 43 percent of the world's undernourished population.

    Clearly, it is sustained, broad-based growth in agriculture that presents the lasting solution to poverty and food insecurity.

(Challenges and opportunities for food and agriculture in the region)

    Agricultural productivity holds the key to sustained agricultural and rural development. Expansion of cultivable area is no longer an option to achieve agricultural growth as expansion reached its limits several years ago in many countries.

    Raising agricultural productivity requires continuing investment in human resource development, agricultural research and development, improved information and extension, farm-to-market roads and related infrastructure, and efficient small-scale, farmer-controlled irrigation technologies. Such investment would give small farmers the options and flexibility to adjust to market conditions.

    The advantages of such an approach have been amply demonstrated by the experience gained with low-income food-deficit countries by the Special Programme for Food Security, whose aim is to enhance agricultural production and facilitate access to food. This Programme, which calls for a firm commitment on the part of governments and the active participation of all stakeholders, especially the farmers, is designed to enable countries to rapidly increase food productivity and production and net rural incomes on an economically and environmentally sustainable basis. The first phase of the Programme comprises microeconomic actions that focus on water control, food crop intensification, diversification into small animal production, artisanal fisheries and aquaculture, and the identification of socio-economic constraints. This pilot phase is followed by an expansion phase which includes a reworking of agricultural policies to create an environment that is favourable to investment, employment and agricultural income, together with the formulation of investment programmes and projects which will help boost bilateral and multilateral funding.

    The Special Programme is currently operational in 60 Member Nations (including 15 in the Asia-Pacific region) and under formulation in a further 17 (including 6 in this region). It receives bilateral and multilateral funding and is supported by a South-South cooperation programme that FAO has put in place to allow participating countries to benefit from the assistance of a large number of experts and field technicians from other developing countries.

    With increasing links and interrelations in fast-growing economies, the agriculture and rural sector has to deal with old recurring issues, such as increasing population, natural resource base depletion and water scarcity, as well as new concerns emerging in part from developments in international trade and finance (for example, macroeconomic instability and structural adjustment measures). Also, the same factors that fuel economic growth (such as globalisation and advances in biotechnology) need special attention. These concerns deserve to be high on the agenda for sustainable agricultural and rural development in the new millennium.

    Population pressure and urbanisation change dietary composition and demand for agricultural products and increase urban poverty, thus altering the causes and the nature of the interventions required.

    The depletion of the natural resource base and water scarcity are especially critical for the Asia-Pacific region, where croplands now include fragile rainfed or semi-arid areas with slopes or poor soils. New sources of water to meet rising demand are increasingly scarce and user charges often fail to reflect its true value. Solutions to this problem will require careful planning and firm institutional commitment towards applying appropriate and courageous policies to conserve the natural potential.

    Agriculture and related activities need to be carried out in harmony with the environment. FAO will therefore continue to encourage the sustainable management of land, water, fishery and forestry resources.

    FAO continues to support actions aimed at adopting and implementing the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries in the Asia-Pacific region. Continuing attention will therefore be placed on the optimal use of inland and coastal fishery resources, habitat preservation, and on the protection of marine and coastal ecosystems and biodiversity.

    Issues related to sustainable forest management are on all the agendas. A programme of support to forestry in the region is being implemented under the FAO Strategic Plan for Forestry, with the decentralisation of responsibility and resources to the Regional Office, the strengthening of partnerships with other organizations, and a greater role for the Organization in the regional dialogue on forest-related matters through the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission and other fora.

    Financial and macroeconomic crises and structural adjustment, as experience in the Asia-Pacific region has shown, can be managed and dealt with successfully. But stabilisation need not be biased against the poor; it all depends on how public expenditures are cut. If growth and equity are to be promoted, then rural infrastructure, rural production capacity and the social services need to be protected when programmes of adjustment are implemented.

    Globalisation arouses doubts in many minds, for the timing, sequencing, and management of liberalisation are crucial factors if its potential benefits are to be reaped and its negative social consequences minimised. Governments must also work together to promote mechanisms to enhance the transparency, efficiency and equity of international agricultural markets.

    Modern science and technology offer some hope - amid the reality of rising demands on but limitations to the natural resource base - of achieving food security and reducing poverty, especially in the developing countries of the Asia-Pacific region. I note with interest that the issue of the implications and development of biotechnology is on your agenda.

    Recent advances in biotechnology and the development of improved varieties with traits for drought tolerance, pest resistance and nitrogen fixation could contribute towards enhancing not only yields, but also the quality, safety and nutritional value of food, thus mitigating the problems of undernutrition, especially among the poorest population groups.

    But enjoying the benefits of modern science and technology is predicated upon a number of pre-requisites. These relate to the infrastructure and capacity to handle new technologies, intellectual property rights, food safety, the impact of biotechnology on the environment and biodiversity, and the ethical aspects of new methodologies. National programmes need to ensure that all sectors can benefit from biotechnology.

    Concerns about the possible health and environmental risks associated with genetically modified products and the equitable sharing of innovations in this field require the attention of the public authorities, who should draw upon the work of the Codex Alimentarius to adopt effective biosafety regulations. An appropriate intellectual and common property rights system needs to be put in place on the basis of the negotiations on genetic resources underway at FAO.

    We should also recall the strategic importance of investments in human resource development, for it is a country's human resources that determine the efficiency and competitiveness of its economic activities. People make up institutions and, at the end of the day, will collectively determine the success or failure of measures taken in the new millennium to reduce poverty and achieve food security.

(Parallel meetings to the 25thFAO Regional Conference)

    Parallel to this 25th Regional Conference, two other main gatherings of high relevance to the region's food security have been convened. The first is a forum for the regional non-governmental organizations and the civil society organizations; while the other is on the agricultural supply and demand situation and outlook, within the context of intra-regional trade in food and agricultural products in the Asia-Pacific region.

    Non-governmental and community based organizations play an important role in the rural and agricultural development of our Members Nations. The involvement of the NGOs/CSOs in the formulation of the draft Plan of Action of the World Food Summit was much valued and influenced the Plan of Action. Collaborative efforts from all sectors of society, including the NGOs and CSOs, are needed if the World Food Summit objectives are to be achieved. It was with this in mind that FAO decided to hold a NGO/CSO consultation in parallel to its regional conferences, with a view to benefiting from the experience of these active players in fields relevant to the Organization's mandate.

    The consultation on the agricultural supply and demand situation and outlook, within the context of intra-regional trade in food and agricultural products in the Asia-Pacific region focuses on major issues relating to the creation of an enabling environment for the promotion of intra-regional trade and policy measures required for national agricultural development and regional food security.

(Ordre du jour de la Conférence régionale)

    Le défi à relever pour assurer la sécurité alimentaire durable de tous reste d'actualité, comme l'a rappelé le Sommet mondial de l'alimentation. Le nombre élevé de personnes sous-alimentées, notamment dans les pays à faible revenu et à déficit vivrier, témoigne de la nécessité de poursuivre sans relâche nos efforts. La FAO, pour sa part, en collaboration avec tous ses partenaires, accorde une grande priorité à l'aide à fournir à ces pays pour qu'ils puissent relever le défi fondamental de la faim.

    La vingt-cinquième Conférence régionale examinera les questions clés liées à la lutte contre l'insécurité alimentaire et la vulnérabilité. Les questions suivantes figurent à votre ordre du jour:

    Vous avez devant vous une tâche importante et exaltante dans la lutte contre la faim et la pauvreté qui sévissent encore dans la région. J'attends avec beaucoup d'intérêt le résultat de vos délibérations et vous souhaite tout le succès possible dans vos travaux.

    Je vous remercie.


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