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17 – 21 MAY 2004








Hon. Chairman,


Ladies and Gentlemen,


Allow me, Mr. Chairman, first and foremost, to congratulate you for being elected to chair this very important meeting. I am confident that under your able leadership, this meeting will achieve much success. I would also like to express my appreciation to the government of the People’s Republic of China for the excellent organization of the conference.

2.      It is indeed a privilege for me to participate in this meeting. The relevance of this regional conference is never in doubt as it provides an opportunity for delegates from the Asia and the Pacific region to address the varied and complex issues and challenges related to agriculture, poverty, hunger and food security, food quality and safety, sustainable development and trade liberalizations. It is the task and responsibility of the delegates present here to find solutions to these issues for the betterment of the region.


Mr. Chairman,

3.      It was eight years ago that member countries pledged to fight hunger. We pledged to provide the political will and adequate resources to ensure that more people will have access to food. Yet till today, food insecurity is still a major challenge to developing countries. The number of food insecure people is still at a staggering high and we are far off from reaching the target that we have ourselves set to eradicate hunger and poverty. So where did we go wrong? And to what extend have we undertaken our commitments to ensure that each hungry person has access to safe and nutritious food?

4.      It is indeed a sad situation, not only because our region records a very high number of food insecure people, but the rate of reduction has also been slow. Do we still have the political will to fight hunger? I sincerely hope that it is so. It is Malaysia’s fervent hope that this meeting will enable us to come out with concrete proposals on what and how we can all contribute towards eradicating hunger and poverty. It certainly looks like we may now have to triple our efforts in order to achieve the goal that we have all agreed to.


Mr. Chairman,

5.      Malaysia is fully committed to eradicating poverty and enhancing our food security. Even though Malaysia is classified as a low vulnerable country in terms of the right to access to food, we will continue to implement programs so as to increase food production and maximize the income of our farming communities. We believe that food self sufficiency resulting from increased domestic production is the best guarantee to ensure sufficient food is available and accessible to the poor and hungry population. 

6.      Our commitment to eradicate poverty and enhance our food security is evidenced by the government’s continued recognition that the agriculture sector will become a major stimulant for the economy. New emphasis has been put in place on agriculture because many of our farmers, livestock breeders and fishermen totaling some 1.4 million are still poor and lagging in many amenities and facilities. Our estimation shows that the rate of poverty among farmers and livestock breeders is 7-9% whilst almost 11% of the fishermen and fish farmers are classified as poor, earning monthly incomes of less than RM500 (or approximately US$130). Even though we have achieved the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target in reducing the income poverty by half and exceeded the purchasing power parity of US$1 per day,  we are determined that more attention be given to this vulnerable group so as to improve their quality of life. 

7.      To further emphasize the importance of the agriculture sector to the economy, priority is also given to the development of the agro-based industry. Malaysia is a country that has good climate, abundant supply of resources and land. We can produce rice, tropical fruits and vegetables in abundance. Hence, the priority on the development of the agriculture sector and agro-based industry is expected to create employment, bring in more foreign revenue and  enhance the nation’s food security.

8.       Malaysia’s new shift in priority towards agriculture and promoting it as an important engine of growth requires putting it back on the forefront of the country’s economic agenda. My ministry has drawn up exciting new plans and innovative ways to transform this traditional sector into a modern enterprise.  It entails a complete transformation of the agriculture sector and at the same time warrants a paradigm shift in approach towards agriculture in terms of planning, implementation, projects and programs. It also means addressing the attitudes of farmers as well as their readiness to change and acceptance of technology. It means providing training and making technology and machines cheaper and more affordable to farmers. This certainly is a Herculean task. But we are determined to do it because we believe that agriculture is a profitable venture and a rewarding economic activity and the sector can become the mainstay of the nation’s economy. 


Mr. Chairman,

9.      It cannot be denied that agriculture trade also contributes toward eradication of poverty and food insecurity. But developing countries find it difficult to gain access to markets of the developed countries due to the stringent rules and regulations on food safety and quality standards. This trend is apparent in Western Europe where the most prominent rules and regulations is the EUREPGAP regulations in the importation of fresh produce into Western Europe. Parallel to this is the official initiative by the European Union to come up with its own rules and regulations and these we understand are currently being drawn up. The implication of such rules and regulations is that market access for products from developing countries appears increasingly restricted and it is certainly another setback to reducing hunger and poverty.

10.    The question for countries like Malaysia and other developing countries is whether these additional rules and regulations are mandatory. While we welcome such initiatives as in the longer term they will bring positive benefits to the agricultural sector especially in improving product quality, the capacity of developing countries complying with these standards should also be taken into consideration. And in this regard, Malaysia would like to strongly urge the FAO to look into the harmonization of these different standards. In addition, FAO should also provide capacity building programs that are most suitable to the developing countries. Without enhancing the capacity of the developing countries, agriculture trade will only benefit the developed countries.


Mr. Chairman,

11.    I would like to reiterate Malaysia’s firm commitment to eradicate poverty and enhance food security. My government will continue to give emphasis to the agriculture sector and promote agro-based industry. We want the agriculture sector to emerge as a strong contributor to national economic development. Likewise, we want to produce farmers that are not only modern but more successful as well.


Thank you.


Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Malaysia