Bangkok, 9-10 March 2011

Honourable Mr. Hiroyuki Konuma, Assistant Director General & Regional Representative, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific;

H.E. Ertharin Cousin, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Agencies in Rome;

Distinguished Delegates from FAO Member States in Asia and the Pacific Region;

Distinguished Representatives of International Organizations, Development Partners, Civil Society Organisations, and the Private Sector;

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning!

I am pleased to be here today participating in this important Regional Consultation on Policy and Programmatic Actions to Address High Food Prices in Asia and the Pacific Region. On behalf of the ten ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN Secretariat, I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to FAO for organising and hosting this important two-day Consultation in the light of the recent surge in world food prices. Certainly, the meeting will help to facilitate the development of timely policy options and programmes for governments and other stakeholders to prevent the recurrence of the food security crisis we experienced in 2007-2008.

Food security is the crucial agenda of all nations due to its importance to the livelihood, growth, development and prosperity of their people. While Asia and the Pacific regions have the ability to feed themselves and have lifted many of their citizens out of the poverty trap in the last half-century, they still account for more than half of the world’s hungry population. Asia alone accounts for 65% of the world’s hungry population. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s 1.4 billion poor live in Asia and they spend, on the average, half their income on food. Nearly 560 million people who earn less than US$ 1.25 a day live in rice producing areas and 90% of the rice is grown in Asia. This makes Asia vulnerable to price hikes as past experiences have shown.

Besides, food insecurity in Asia is full of paradoxes. The region is home to the world’s two biggest exporters, Thailand and Viet Nam and the biggest importer, the Philippines. ASEAN remains as a food surplus region. It is also the cradle of the two giants of global food production, and consumption, India and China. We are still confronted by poverty; problems of hunger and malnutrition; growing population and food consumption; urban expansion; and land conversion to bio-fuels. As such, any rise in food prices will have ramifications for Asia as well as the Pacific given the multitude of interrelated issues faced by the regions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the part of ASEAN, we recognize the critical importance of food security and have placed food security as a high priority and permanent agenda of our community building endeavour. We will be establishing a people-oriented ASEAN Community by the year 2015.

In response to the concerns over food security driven by the challenges of higher food prices, climate change, and bio-energy, the ASEAN Heads of State and Government at their 14th ASEAN Summit held on 1 March 2009, adopted the ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) Framework and the Strategic Plan of Action on ASEAN Food Security (SPA-FS) (2009-2013) to embrace food security as a matter of permanent and high priority policy as well as to align ASEAN’s commitment to achieving the objectives of the World Food Summit and the Millennium Development Goals, with the main goal of ensuring long-term food security and to improve the livelihoods of farmers in the ASEAN region. ASEAN is actively implementing the framework and action plan with the help of its Dialogue Partners, Development Partners, and donor agencies.

Besides, ASEAN is close to establishing a permanent rice reserve with China, Japan and Republic of Korea under the ASEAN Plus Three Process. ASEAN has also reiterated its commitment to refrain from any market distortions that may affect food trade. Furthermore, we are also cognizant of the need to address the issue of food and energy security in a comprehensive manner to ensure sustainable development. I will share with you more about the various ASEAN schemes in the following session on ASEAN’s initiatives in addressing food security and high food prices.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In closing, let me underscore the importance of this meeting to take stock of the current situation and foster partnerships among concerned stakeholders in tackling food security, in particular the current food price increases. I hope this will help to promote greater understanding of the current situation and assist in coming up with policy and programme options for addressing the situation with the participation of all stakeholders and assistance of our development partners, civil society organisations and the private sector.

I wish FAO and all participants a fruitful meeting with good and substantive outcomes.

Thank you.