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Appendix 3 - Speeches of welcome


Hotel Agro, Budapest, 6-10 March 2001

Statement presented by
Mr Jaroslav SUCHMAN
Subregional Representative for Central and Eastern Europe (FAO SEUR)

Mr President,

It is my pleasure to address this Regional Meeting on Seed Policy and Programmes for CEECs on behalf of the Director General of FAO, Mr Jacques Diouf, and also to welcome Mr Mahmud Duwayri, FAO Plant Production and Protection Division Director, Mr Bruno Curzi from FAO HQ and Mr Zoltán Bedo, President of our meeting.

I would like to express my appreciation to Dr Peter Szerdahelyi, Deputy State Secretary, and to Mr Bertalan Szekely, Head of the Agricultural Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Regional Development.

At the kind invitation of the Government of Hungary, with the technical and financial support of FAO/AGPS, and in close collaboration with the Agricultural Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, represented by Mr Bedo, Director, and the FAO/SEUR Office, this regional technical meeting of 24 FAO member-country representatives involved in the seed sector and other technical experts, has been organized in Budapest. Participants have been nominated by countries of the region in order to develop a framework for seed policy and programmes through a country-driven process. It is intended that the participants will represent the interests of both the public and private seed sectors. Overall, the Meeting is expected to:

Mr President, I also wish to express my appreciation to the organizers of this meeting for giving me the opportunity to present brief information about the activities of the FAO Subregional Office for Central and Eastern Europe to such a distinguished audience.

The Subregional Office for Central and Eastern Europe (SEUR) was established in October 1995. Thanks to the hospitality of the Government of Hungary, it is located in Budapest. Today, the Office is fully staffed and operational, with seven professionals and seven support staff.

The main tasks of the Office are to:

Thus the Office has the role of a sensor, located in the front line, with the mandate to monitor developments in the Region, alert FAO, Rome, concerning the needs of the region, and identify priority areas for action. The Office, as such, if I may continue using military terminology, should use its limited resources and ammunition within the priority areas, as defined by member countries themselves prior to the establishment of the Subregional Office, and which are reflected by the expertise made available to the Subregional Office, namely:

I will highlight some of the activities, which I believe will be of interest to you:

The major strength of FAO resides in its technical expertise and independence, or probably the word “neutrality” would be better in this case. With these two strengths, FAO is able - when requested by member governments - to organize technical meetings at global, regional or national level to discuss and provide unbiased advice on important policy and technical issues, often of a sensitive nature. FAO, through its neutral and high quality technical meetings, has contributed to the elaboration and adoption of a number of international agreements setting quality standards or codes of conduct. However, most meetings - such as workshops, training courses and seminars or studies - are geared to provide a neutral forum for the exchange of technical or scientific information, as well as for discussion of specific problems and the options available for their solution. These are the so-called FAO normative activities, which are of interest to all or a large number of member countries.

Another mode of assistance to Member Nations is through specific projects implemented with the technical assistance of FAO in a specific country and seeking to help resolve problems of a particular nature or remove constraints, with aim of promoting agricultural and rural development in the country.

Today, FAO is operating projects in 19 CEECs, including regional and subregional projects, for a total budget of US$ 33 million. Several of these projects are also backstopped by the Regional Office for Europe as well as by the Subregional Office.

Mr President, allow me to draw the attention of all participants of this meeting to a most important political event to be organized by FAO from 5 to 9 November 2001 in Rome: WFS - Five Years Later. Heads of State and government officials will be gathered to review progress in implementation of the World Food Summit (WFS) Plan of Action. Official invitations have already been sent out by Mr Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO.

World leaders will be requested to outline the measures they envisage to achieve the goals they had set in adopting the documents of the WFS, and to take decisions necessary to accelerate the rate of implementation of measures aimed at halving the number of the hungry in the world.

The purpose of this information is to invite you all to join the preparation process in your countries, the organizational mechanisms of which have already started. In the process of your countries’ participation, your assistance may required in a number of areas corresponding to your professional field.

Our Subregional FAO Office in Budapest is ready to provide you with any additional promotional information and assistance as preparation progresses.

Mr President, let me come back to our Regional Technical meeting this week on Seed Policy and Programmes for CEECs.

I understand that main objective of the meeting is to define policy guidelines for member states and to strengthen national capacities required for improving production, multiplication and distribution systems for good quality seeds of varieties adapted to the agro-ecological conditions found in the subregion.

Mr President, I'm sure you will have here a considerable amount of accumulated international and national expertise on seed policy from all important aspects. Let me wish you and all participants full success in your deliberation in this beautiful city, Budapest, on behalf of the FAO Subregional Office in Hungary and all my FAO colleagues and all the organizers.

Thank you for your attention.



Hotel Agro, Budapest, 6-10 March 2001

Speech presented by
Director, FAO Plant Production and Protection Division

Your Excellencies, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, distinguished guests and participants, dear colleagues and friends, ladies and gentlemen,

To begin with, let me welcome all of you on behalf of FAO to this important regional technical meeting on Seed Policy and Programmes for Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC), Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and other Countries in Transition (CT), and express my sincere thanks to the Government of Hungary, and to the Agricultural Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Martonvásár, for the warm welcome they have provided.

It is indeed a privilege for me to take the floor at this important event. This meeting has a broad technical coverage and its aim is to deal, in an integrated manner, with numerous issues and activities related to seed production and improvement, and to stimulate reflection on the important role that this sector is playing, and will continue to play, in the crop and agricultural development of the CEEC, CIS and CT.

As you know, FAO is at the forefront of the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. In this connection, FAO not long ago launched the Special Programme for Food Security, with special emphasis on assisting Member Countries to harness their potential for achieving food self-sufficiency. Embedded in this effort is the strategy to use good quality seed of adapted improved and local varieties as a tool for enhancing farm productivity. Considering that seed is fundamental to farming, it is important that we should ensure that farmers have unimpeded access to high quality seed of well-adapted varieties.

The Plan of Action adopted by world leaders at the World Food Summit in Rome, in November 1996, affirmed the need for food security for all peoples. Among others, the Plan of Action called for the creation of policies and conditions that will encourage public and private investments to contribute to food security and the mobilization of resources to increase investment in areas linked to food security.

Plant breeding and variety improvement have for centuries depended on the utilization of genetic diversity, in which this region is very rich. Some of the world’s major crops, such as wheat, barley, oat, pea, cabbage, cucumber, pepper, sunflower, hemp, beet, grape, apples, berry fruits and nuts, have their centre of origin in this region. National, regional and global efforts are needed to preserve plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and identify genes for incorporation into new varieties, necessary to withstand stresses and ultimately enhance the quantity and quality of food crops in the long term. Many countries started their germplasm collection a long time ago, and some of those collections enjoy a worldwide reputation, as is the case for the N.I. Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry (VIR) in St Petersburg. In order for these collections to continue to serve as valuable raw materials for varietal improvement, there will be a need to ensure that they are adequately and rationally maintained and regenerated on a long-term basis.

Mr Chairman, the Global Plan of Action for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA), adopted by 150 countries at the Fourth International Technical Conference for Plant Genetic Resources, held in Leipzig in 1996, includes a priority activity on “Supporting Seed Production and Distribution,” with quite specific recommendations for governments, and their national agricultural research systems, taking also into account the views of the private sector, farmers’ organizations and their communities.

FAO’s work in the area of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture is guided by its intergovernmental Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA). Through the Commission, countries are currently negotiating the revision of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources, in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity.

It is crucial that negotiations reach a successful agreement. The failure to complete the revision of the International Undertaking would threaten the free flow of germplasm, and hamper benefit sharing within a multilateral system, with negative consequences for the seed sector as a whole.

Consistent with this Global Plan of Action on plant genetic resources and the Plan of Action of the World Food Summit, FAO initiated regional seed assessments and organized seed policy and programme meetings for the various regions of the world (sub-Saharan Africa; Asia and the Pacific; Near East and North Africa; and Latin America and the Caribbean). The main outcome of these meetings was the establishment of regional intergovernmental technical bodies: the African Seed Network (ASN); the Seed Network for Asia and the Pacific (SNAP); a Consultative Forum on Seed in the Near East and North Africa (CFS-NENA); and a Seed Consultative Forum for Latin America and the Caribbean (SCF-LAC). As a follow-up to these meetings, including the one being launched on this occasion, an international expert consultation will be organized in the near future to define a global strategy for seed production and supply.

One of the major challenges facing the majority of CEEC, CIS and CT is to achieve national food security within a sustainable agricultural framework, while pursuing the process of conversion to a market economy.

Many countries in the region are providing funding through joint ventures or other contractual arrangements with foreign investors, and are making good progress in restoring their seed production and supply systems. To this end, these countries need technical assistance in creating favourable conditions for foreign investment, addressing protection issues, seed quality control and certification, and the legal aspects of the international seed trade. It is worthwhile noting that the privatization of public and parastatal seed-related institutions has sometimes affected the level of support to genebanks held in these institutions. This issue requires particular attention so as to limit the loss of valuable local genetic resources.

The Seed and Plant Genetic Resources Service of FAO (AGPS), in collaboration with FAO’s Legal Office, assists FAO Member Countries in formulating and implementing national and regional seed policies and programmes. These include the technical and legal aspects of seed testing, certification, variety protection, and drafting appropriate legislation. Much of this assistance is related to the harmonized methods for seed testing devised by ISTA, plant variety protection in conformity with the most widely accepted systems, including UPOV and the TRIPS Agreement, and the variety certification of seeds moving in international trade under OECD Seed Schemes. The globalization of the world economy and the conditions imposed by WTO agreements are a new challenge to the countries of this region, calling for technical and legal support from international organizations such as FAO.

Mr Chairman, in seeking to meet the increasing demand for food, modern agriculture is using new technologies, such as biotechnology, aimed at facilitating the processes involved in the development of new value-added varieties. FAO recognizes that biotechnology provides a set of powerful tools for the sustainable development of agriculture, fisheries and forestry, as well as the food industry. Modern biotechnologies have proven to be successful means for the micropropagation of virus-free plants, and have provided plant disease diagnostic kits, marker-assisted selection, and a whole range of well-known techniques to assist in improving agricultural productivity. When appropriately integrated with other technologies for the production of food, agricultural products and services, biotechnology can be of significant assistance in meeting the needs of an expanding and increasingly urbanized population in this millennium. In the case of using biotechnology for the production of genetically modified organisms, however, FAO is also aware of the need to assess potential risks for the environment and for human and animal health.

In view of the potential contribution of biotechnology in increasing the food supply and overcoming food insecurity and vulnerability, FAO considers that efforts should be made to ensure that developing countries and countries in transition in general, and resource-poor farmers in particular, benefit more from biotechnology, while continuing to have access to a diversity of sources of genetic material. FAO proposes that this need be addressed through increased public funding and dialogue between the public and private sectors. FAO’s role is to provide assistance to set national priorities upon request, disseminate information and provide technical assistance to countries on specific technologies. Whenever the need arises, FAO acts as an “honest broker” by providing a forum for discussion.

Therefore, the recommendations of this Meeting should also provide member countries with valuable guidance for developing a concerted strategy for seed and planting material production and distribution, based on a sound seed policy and feasible seed development programmes. Emphasis should focus on regional collaboration among the countries of the region regarding PGRFA conservation, plant breeding, seed production and marketing. In achieving this, FAO could provide valuable guidance and technical assistance.

The first step towards a more comprehensive collaboration was taken last November in Prague, with the creation of the Eastern European Seed Network (EESNET), focusing mainly on collaboration among seed associations and seed companies of the region. This current meeting should expand the collaboration to all facets of the seed industry, including seed programmes, plant genetic resources conservation and use, agricultural research and extension, variety protection, seed testing and certification, seed legislation and marketing.

At this juncture, I wish to thank the Government of Hungary for hosting this meeting. My congratulations go to the National Organizers for so ably making all the necessary local preparations. I wish to thank all the resource persons, participants and guests here with us this week. Special thanks are also addressed to all the international organizations and to the governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as the private seed companies and associations, that have responded to FAO’s invitation to attend this Meeting.

I thank you all and wish you a pleasant stay in Hungary, and look forward to a very fruitful Meeting.


Hotel Agro, Budapest, 6-10 March 2001

Welcoming remarks by the representative of The Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural development
Mr Bertalan SZEKELY
Head, Agricultural Division at the Ministry of Agriculture.

Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great privilege for me to welcome you on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and at the same time to extend the best wishes of the Minister of Agriculture for a fruitful and progressive meeting and discussion.

First, allow me to provide you with some information about the situation of agriculture in Hungary. Fifty percent of Hungarian agriculture consists of crop production, and 48-50% is animal husbandry. Hungary is lucky in that 70% of its area is cultivable. Of this, there are 4.7 million ha of ploughed land, 1.2 million ha of grassland and more than 1 million ha of forest. Seed is thus required to serve the 4.7 million ha of arable land, 60% of which is sown to cereals, with 450-500 000 ha of sunflower, 160-170 000 ha of rape and 300 000 ha of fodder.

Hungary has a continental climate, allowing yields of 4.0-5.5 t/ha for wheat, 6-7 t/ha for maize, 1.6-2.0 t/ha for sunflower, 1.6 2.0 t/ha for rape and 40-44 t/ha for sugar beet. A good or medium yield can generally be obtained every year, but the use of good quality seed and vegetative propagation material of high biological value plays a key role in the success of crop production, horticulture and forestry. The Ministry pays very careful attention to the quality of biological stocks and the legal framework and economic conditions of agricultural production. It is therefore a pleasure for us that FAO has also taken an initiative in this matter and has focused its attention on the hopefully transient problems of countries with economies in transition. Thanks are also due to FAO for selecting Budapest as the venue of this important meeting.

Processes associated with the change in the political system in Hungary, including privatization, changes in land ownership structure and farm size composition, the general deficiency of capital, and financial difficulties, not only resulted in a decline in overall agricultural production, but also created considerable difficulties for agricultural research, especially in the breeding of seed and vegetative propagation material for crop production.

An example of the reduction in seed production is that of certified wheat seed, which amounted to over 200 000 ton per year in the 1980s, but dropped to a third of this quantity, 70 000 ton, in 1991. A similar tendency could be observed for most crop species, and seed exports also decreased during this period. The use of seed of uncertain quality along with a considerable decrease in fertilizer application contributed to a great extent to the reduction in average yields in the 1990s. Recently, seed production has started to recover, and the quantity of wheat seed produced in 2000 exceeded 180 000 ton. The subsidizing policy of the Ministry, which makes the use of certified seed a condition for the granting of subsidies, contributed considerably to this favourable change.

The appearance and domination of multinational companies in the Hungarian seed market, especially in cash crops such as maize, sunflower, sugar beet and malting barley, presented a considerable challenge to the Hungarian plant breeding and seed industry. Despite the difficulties, however, Hungarian institutes and companies retained a large part of the home market for other crops, such as wheat, winter barley, perennial forage legumes, and some vegetable and fruit species.

The state registration of plant varieties and the production and certification of seeds and reproductive material is regulated by Act No. 1996/CXXXI. Since Hungary is a UPOV member state, the regulations are based on the UPOV Convention. In conjunction with Hungary’s negotiations aimed at EU accession, certain parts of the national legislation have been identified where modifications and adjustments are necessary. These include the regulations for the handling of free cultivars, the temporary authorization of cultivar propagation, royalties, plantlet certification, the duration of state registration, essentially derivative cultivars, and the regulation of farmer’s privilege.

Questions related to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are regulated by Act No. XXVII/1998, while the Convention on Biological Diversity was incorporated by the Hungarian Parliament in Act No. LXXI/1995. At present tests on GMOs are being carried out in a closed system and no GMOs are used in general cultivation.

The Ministry has allocated funds to support the conservation of genetic resources, the maintenance of stock plantations, and the improvement of the biological basis of crop production. The possibility of on-farm conservation of native landraces has been assessed within the framework of the Agro-Environment Protection Programme. The modest but continuous financial support of these activities has helped to safeguard the existing genetic resource collections and stock plantations and has promoted the introduction of new Hungarian cultivars.

I am certain that this meeting will provide an excellent opportunity to discuss experiences and to exchange views, and will result in recommendations and decisions that will help the agricultural administrations in countries with a transitional economy to solve problems concerning the biological basis of agricultural production.

I wish you much success and fruitful discussions on this most important topic on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Thank you for your attention.


Hotel Agro, Budapest, 6-10 March 2001

Welcoming remarks by the
Representative of the Hungarian Cabinet
Deputy Secretary of State in the Office of the Prime Minister of Hungary

Distinguished Guests and Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to welcome you to this technical meeting, where you will be debating a topic that has become one of the most important questions of high quality agriculture. I need hardly explain to a meeting of seed experts that the use of good seed is the alpha and omega of successful farming. I should like to mention four points which underline this fact.

The first is that seed represents the first phase in the vertical cooperation that makes up agriculture, since it determines not only the volume of crop production, but, as we all know, the success of animal husbandry, too.

The second point I should like to mention is the need for security. If we believe what the experts say, we are living in an era of radical climatic changes, and it is agreed by all that the development of seed production will be decisive in determining how we are able to face the challenges that these climatic changes involve.

The third point is that if the seed production system is sound, there will be no problems as regards confidence within the agricultural sector. There are two aspects to this: if the seed background is satisfactory, the farmers will have confidence, and the export market will also have confidence.

The fourth point is that seed production is the sector of agriculture that has become most international. In Hungary, as elsewhere, considerable results have been achieved over the last 10-15 years as a consequence of international cooperation in seed research, multiplication and marketing.

Many other points could be raised to emphasize the importance of seed, as you are all well aware, so it is a pleasure to be present at this meeting, which has been made possible by the efforts of the FAO Headquarters in Rome, the FAO Subregional Office in Budapest, and the Agricultural Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, who are the local organizers.

Allow me to say a few words about the change of political regime which has taken place in Hungary over the last 11 years and which has made its effect felt in all spheres, as it has in many of your countries too. I should like to refer to some of the economic issues involved.

The Hungarian economy is now based primarily on private ownership. While 80% of national production came from state-owned companies in the 1980s and only 20% from private firms, this ratio has now been reversed.

The privatization process is now approaching completion, but it has not been easy and has not been achieved without losses. We have now reached the stage where the body set up to supervise the privatization process is winding up its activities and will soon cease to exist. Most of the state-owned property has now been sold off and the transformation of the ownership structure taking place over the last 10 years is almost complete.

Hungary may not be typical in the following respect, but this transformation could not be achieved without serious recession and inflation. However, we are now coming to the end of this period. Last year was the third year when net national production increased by 5% or more. Inflation dropped from 30% in the mid-1990s to below 10%. The end of this process is also indicated by the fact that unemployment is now around 6%, a figure of which we can be proud compared with the rest of Europe.

It was felt that the transformation of the economy should be based on two factors: an increase in exports and an increase in development and investments. Hungary has indeed achieved a very high export rate, but as a natural consequence of this, domestic consumption has only risen to a very modest extent, and that only over the last 2-3 years. The increase in development could only be achieved with substantial foreign investments, in excess of US$ 22-23 000 million. Without this external aid it would have been impossible to make fundamental changes in the internal structure of the economy and to reduce the high level of foreign debt. As a result of this transformation, Hungary now has reserves sufficient to cover imports for approximately 10-11 months.

Within the Hungarian economy, agriculture was transformed with the utmost difficulty. In addition to privatization, it was necessary to make compensation to former landowners, whose land had been confiscated by the communists. As a result of this, land ownership in Hungary is now extremely varied, with large and small companies, cooperatives and a large number of private farms. To give you some idea of the situation, some 8 000 companies now operate in Hungarian agriculture and around 40 000 smallholders are registered. Much of the agricultural land is leased. It is extremely difficult to elaborate a satisfactory programme of state subsidies and financial measures for this mixed ownership system. Agriculture has also suffered recently from climatic catastrophes. After being hit by drought for several years, flooding has caused disasters over the last few years in many parts of the country.

Hungary is currently negotiating accession to the EU, and it is agriculture and environmental protection that are causing the most problems. However, they must not be allowed to be a hindrance to EU membership. The questions that must be asked are: (1) Is the legal system satisfactory? (2) Is the institutional system satisfactory? and (3) What form should state subsidization take?

The legal system is already close to what is required. We have a Seed Law, a GMO Law and a Standards Law that also covers seed. There are still some problems in harmonizing the laws, but hopefully these can be negotiated. In the case of seed, the situation is satisfactory, because Hungary is already internationally integrated. Hungary has an open seed policy, so foreign companies are already present in the country, many with their own processing plants. This is particularly true of large-scale crops such as cereals.

As regards the institutional system, there is still much to be done. The very mixed composition of the agricultural sector, which I mentioned previously, may be an obstacle in serving the interests of the local community and of the country as a whole. To help solve this problem, there is a state extension service in Hungary, set up to advise new farm owners, who have only started farming over the last ten years, about laws, the necessary paperwork, subsidies, cooperatives, etc. Private agricultural companies also have their own extension services, naturally designed primarily to promote their products. Another aspect of the institutional system is linked with EU accession, as Brussels makes certain stipulations in this respect, which Hungary is endeavouring to satisfy. The year 2001 will be decisive in determining what funds will be available to Hungary from the SAPARD project, and from other sources.

When we talk about subsidies, those who receive them always complain that they are insufficient, while those who give them argue that there is no more money available. This situation is unlikely to change, so all we can do is to try and distribute the available funds as efficiently as possible. No government will ever be free of criticism in this respect, but this does not release them from responsibility for doing the best they can. Under Hungarian conditions, priority must be given to subsidizing investments, since the majority of farms suffer from the lack of efficient farm machinery, which can only be bought with state aid. The second priority is the subsidization of improvements in quality. It is always difficult to define which branch of agriculture to subsidize, since it is difficult to predict in any given year which products will have a real market the following year.

There is one important limitation. On an international scale, the World Trade Organization wishes to restrict the funds that governments can provide to agriculture, and to determine the purposes for which they can be given. At present this plan is in the preparation stage, and will be negotiated at international level in the future.

In this rapidly changing world, where agriculture is in a state of flux, a stable seed sector would be a very good thing, since this is the basis of sustainable agriculture.

With these thoughts in mind, I should like to wish you all a very fruitful meeting, at which a consensus can be reached on all the technical and economic questions that will be important for this sector, both now and in the future.

Thank you for your attention.


Hotel Agro, Budapest, 6-10 March 2001

Statement presented by
Mr Bruno Curzi, FAO
Meeting Coordinator


Distinguished guests, participants, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

Now, as the opening session is over, let me recall your attention to the working part of the Meeting. All of you have received copies of the documents that will be presented during the various sessions of the Meeting. As you can see from the Programme of the Meeting, its working part is divided into five sessions:

Session I, now over, dealt with registration of participants and opening of the meeting;

Session II, now on, and which will continue tomorrow and the day after, consists of presentation of a basic-reference document dealing with an assessment of the seed sector in CEEC, CIS and other Countries in Transition (CT), and seven introductory thematic papers dealing with specific issues of interest to the region, namely:

(i) Management, conservation and utilization of plant genetic diversity.

(ii) Agricultural research and technology transfer to rural communities.

(iii) Harmonization of seed legislation and regulation.

(iv) The role of national seed policies in re-structuring the seed sector.

(v) The role of private companies in development of seed production and supply systems - The Hungarian experience.

(vi) Biotechnology - a modern tool for improvement of food production.

(vii) Regional co-operation in the seed sector of CEEC, CIS and CT.

The presentation of the basic reference document will last one hour followed by 30 minutes for discussion, whereas there will be 30 minutes available for the presentation of each thematic paper, followed by a 30-minute discussion period. The resource persons are kindly requested to respect the time available for their presentation. It is also important for the discussion to be concise and as precise as possible in order to respect the time and make easier the tasks of the report writers. It is also suggested that the reporters prepare a summary of most pertinent issues discussed, so that at the end of each discussion following the presentation they can propose possible recommendations to be further presented to the audience. The whole third day (Thursday) will be devoted to an in-depth discussion of the subjects identified as important for the final conclusions and recommendations of the Meeting.

Thanks to our Organizing Committee, on Friday we will have a whole day field visit. First we will visit the IKR Corporation in Babolna, one of the most significant Hungarian post-soviet industrial entities in the agricultural sector. In the afternoon we will visit the Agricultural Research Institute of Martonvasar, where a farewell reception will be offered by the Institute. All of you are kindly invited to participate. While we will enjoy the excursion, the reporters, assisted by resource persons and FAO/Institute staff, will prepare the draft final report, that will be presented, discussed and then adopted during Session IV, on Saturday morning.

Session V will then follow, namely the formal closing of the Meeting.

Dear guests and participants, before I give the floor to the first speaker, I would like to inform you that here at this Meeting we have the official representatives of 22 (out of 29) countries of the region; representatives of the international seed industry; representatives, of many national and international institutions involved in seed-related activities, as well as representatives of donor institutions; and many others.

Finally I have the pleasure to introduce to you all one of the world’s best seed experts, whose instrumental contribution has made this meeting a reality: my former colleague and dear friend, Mr Ivan Sikora. He will, in due course, present the basic reference paper Seed Production and Improvement: Assessment for the CEEC, CIS and other Countries in Transition. We then have the resource persons who will present the thematic papers, namely, in alphabetical order: Messrs. Sergey Alexanian, from VIR, St. Petersburg, Russia; Zoltan Bedo, from the Agricultural Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Martonvasar, Hungary; Karol Duczmal, from the Polish Seed Trade Organization, Poznan, Poland; David Gisselquist, from the World Bank, Washington DC, USA; Patrick Heffer, from FIS/ASSINSEL, Nyon, Switzerland; Janos Turi from the Hungarian Seed Council, Boly, Hungary; and Michael Turner, from ICARDA, Aleppo, Syria.

I believe I have provided the necessary details and so I wish you a very successful and fruitful Meeting. However, before giving the floor to Mr. Ivan Sikora for the presentation of the basic reference document, I would like to recall your attention to the FAO requests, sent last year, and addressed to your countries’ official representatives, of which some are still unanswered. As you may be aware, we sent, for your country officials to fill in, one questionnaire on Seed Review, one on the Global Plan of Action Implementation, and a request to nominate a Focal Point for each country. Particularly regarding the Seed Review Questionnaire sent to your country’s Ministry of Agriculture, it included a table (No. B9) partially completed by FAO based on the information available. Please - once back home - check and update the information, and help us to obtain complete information. Please help us to help your countries.

Thank You.

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