Opening Remarks on the occasion of The 81st Executive Committee Meeting for Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific (APHCA) | 4 March 2022 - virtual event - Australia

Dr. Mark Schipp, Chief Veterinary Officer of Australia and Executive Committee Chair;
Distinguished Commission Members from Asia and the Pacific,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to greet you and to deliver a short introductory address at the start of this 81st Executive Committee Meeting for Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific (APHCA).

The Animal Health and Production Commission’s mission is to enhance levels of nutrition and standards of living of livestock keepers, livestock producers and livestock value-chain actors through equitable, sustainable and safe livestock sector development in Asia and the Pacific.
In recent years, while the livestock industry has rapidly evolved in Asia and the Pacific, there have been numerous challenges affecting the animal health and production sectors in our region. Among them the continued spread of Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs) including African Swine Fever, Peste Petit Ruminant, Highly pathogenic avian influenza, Foot and Mouth Disease, and Lumpy Skin Disease, to name a few. As well, the increasing impacts of climate change and natural disasters have impacted livestock, livelihoods, trade, and both food and nutrition security in the region.

The COVID-19 pandemic, along with associated lock-down measures has significantly impacted the livestock sector, impacted the ability of farmers to access resources to support production including veterinary services, vaccines and medications, as well as affecting elements down-stream including transport, marketing and sales of livestock and livestock products in Asia and the Pacific.

APHCA has an important role to play in clarifying and assessing the requirements of the livestock sector in the region, and in advising on suitable measures for sustainable dynamic regional livestock sector development. The challenges ahead are of unprecedented magnitude and scope, and the task of keeping pace with these rapidly changing demands is indeed very substantial.
Mindful of this, there are significant opportunities that can be harnessed. These include providing up-to-date guidance on the priority needs of APHCA member countries, supporting improvements in rural livestock production and safe farming practices, identifying priority disease prevention and control measures needed to improve production.

Advocating and supporting sustainable climate-smart and eco-friendly production practices, improving value-chains, marketing and livelihoods of producers, and enabling cross-border coordination and collaboration that benefits relevant livestock sector stakeholders area also key approaches.

In this current context a few important considerations are worth mentioning. In most countries in the region, the share of production by smallholders will continue to decrease under present policies. Although there are large intra-regional variations, the trend towards further industrialization of animal production in Asia does not appear to have been seriously disrupted by the pandemic crisis. The fact remains that there are serious concerns with regard to the environmental sustainability of intensive livestock operations, utilizing current approaches and practices, and to date, inadequate attention has been placed on the impacts that livestock production is having on the environment.
This emphasizes the need to safeguard, to the extent possible, production systems which are more sustainable, and often associated with smallholders and mixed systems.

Having said that, this also highlights the opportunity at hand, an opportunity to help livestock production systems transition to more sustainable, climate-smart approaches that ensure food and nutrition security while addressing some of the detrimental impacts traditionally associated with livestock production.

Environmentally responsible production of safe quality livestock-based food products is an opportunity for APHCA members to consider. As well, it may also be prudent for APHCA to undertake an assessment to evaluate current needs and priorities of members for the next five years. An extended horizon could be feasible given that, in just two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot has changed regionally and globally. It would be important to ensure that the focus of APHCA is on the priority needs of member countries, as the fallout of the global pandemic has touched the lives of everyone, both professionally and personally.

Before concluding my short intervention, I would like to express my sincere hope and optimism that in the near future, more countries in the region will find it worthwhile and useful to join this Commission in order to strengthen its ability to support and provide specific technical guidance as an important tool for debate, consensus-building and for regional problem-solving in the livestock sector.

In conclusion, I would like to express my sincere gratitude and thanks to all those who made this event possible, and in particular, to the Executive Committee Chair and Members for enabling the work of this important Commission to continue, despite the challenges faced due to the pandemic and associated travel restrictions. I wish you a productive Executive Committee Meeting.

Thank you very much.