|A boost of technology and good farming knowledge would not only bring opportunities for farmers but also benefit consumers, said Siang Hee Tan, Executive Director of CropLife Asia. — File Photo
HA NOI (VNS) — Over 350 delegates from regional governments, businesses, and NGOs gathered in Ha Noi yesterday to discuss various steps to boost the development of agriculture in Southeast Asia.
The two-day responsible business forum on food and agriculture, themed: ASEAN Beyond 2015: Collaboration For Equitable Growth, was co-organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Global Initiatives Organization, the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), and World Wild Fund.
The forum set a goal for the ASEAN region of feeding a global population of 9 billion by 2050. For this, it will require transformational changes to farming and agricultural systems, which are already under pressure from climate change and water scarcity.
Delegates at the forum agreed that feeding the world will present both challenges and opportunities for the ASEAN region.
Juan Farinati, the Vice President of Monsanto Asia-Pacific, which specialises in supplying seeds for fruits, vegetables, and cotton, said that there was "immense potential for collaboration and innovation to ensure food and nutrition security as well as equitable growth across ASEAN."
"In Viet Nam, better seed, farming practices, and market linkages have helped 8,000 farmers in the Mekong Delta earn approximately US$1 million incremental income in a rice-to-corn rotation partnership in 2013-14."
At the forum, Chairman of ASEAN Business Advisory Council Tan Sri Dr Munir Abdul Majid observed that the major trouble in establishing collaborations in regional agriculture was the fact that they had been working their own way. He noted that climate change, natural disasters, low technology as well as financial support only added to this problem.
Sharing the same opinion, VCCI chairman Vu Tien Loc said local agriculture was facing major threats from urbanisation, pollution, and climate change, making it necessary to establish a sustainable future for better productivity of regional agriculture.
Peter Timmer, Cabot Professor of Development Studies, Harvard University, said the region should have a free trade zone for rice as it was a staple food of all the countries in the region.
Addressing the challenges, delegates agreed that a transformation in farming systems would help bring changes.
Citing Viet Nam's case, Dang Kim Son, Director General of the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development, applauded the benefits of public-private partnerships (PPP) in the development of the country's agriculture sector.
Son noted that millions of tonnes of farm produce had been cultivated under the PPP model, adding that such partnerships had attracted more investors to local agriculture. At the same time, large local groups had also shifted their interest to invest in this sector.
"If the trend spreads to small and medium enterprises, it will add to the collective strength needed to boost the industry," Son added.
A boost of technology and good farming knowledge would not only bring opportunities for farmers but also benefit consumers, said Siang Hee Tan, Executive Director of CropLife Asia.
According to a report from global agriculture company Syngenta, to increase 20 per cent of average productivity without using more cultivated land, water, and input, it will renovate 10 million hectares of farmland all over the world by 2020. They have trained farmers, helping them improve their cultivated land and do business. Syngenta has been conducting the same programme for corn and coffee crops in Viet Nam in coordination with Tay Nguyen University and the National Agriculture Promotion Centre.
As the seminar closes today, participants will make suggestions to increase the supply of rice, tea, dairy, coffee, maize, and aquaculture products produced through sustainable farming techniques. They will also recommend measures for sustainable land use, equitable opportunity for smallholder farmers, increasing productivity, and improving rural livelihoods. — VNS