FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION (FAO)
CONFERENCE FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
REPUBLIC OF CHINA
– 21 MAY 2004
OF AGRICULTURE AND AGRO-BASED INDUSTRY
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Malaysia