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Agriculture Ministers of six nations meet to launch regional program

Apr '07
Agriculture ministers of six nations will meet tomorrow for the first time, to discuss a far reaching program to accelerate and strengthen their cooperation in agriculture, which employs a large proportion of the population in their countries.

The six countries - Cambodia, People's Republic of China (Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam - make up the Greater Mekong Subregion or GMS. They have been working together under the GMS Economic Cooperation Program since 1992.

The need for greater cooperation among the countries in agriculture has increased as the development effects of the overall GMS Program have become evident. Economic growth in the subregion is being assisted by the creation of transport corridors among the six countries. These have resulted in “economic corridors,” as the countries have opened their borders to trade, with economic benefits flowing along the length of the corridors and into adjacent areas.

At the same time, the agriculture landscape has been changing globally as a result of the confluence of several factors. Agriculture is moving away from a single objective of providing food to the dual role of being a source of both food and energy. And this is occurring at a time when the sector is under increasing threat from climate change, animal and crop disease epidemics, and water shortages.

Against this backdrop, Urooj Malik, Director, Southeast Asia Department, ADB said that GMS agriculture must aim toward a more prosperous yet socially equitable sector in which the full benefits of the “new agriculture” are shared by the poor.

These changes mean new opportunities in the agriculture sector of the subregion but also a range of new issues for the countries to address. An example is the possible effects on national and subregional food security and on the rural poor of a switch from food to bioenergy crops.

New animal and crop disease risks are becoming prominent, especially with the recent outbreaks of avian influenza in some countries of the subregion. To deal with these issues, the countries need to boost their capacities not only in science and technology, but also in relation to developing new policies and regulations and food safety standards.

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