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Article Released Wed-29th-November-2006 09:25 GMT
Contact: Duncan Macintosh Institution: International Rice Research Institute
 ASEAN endorses major initiatives to boost regional rice production

Singapore – Rice production in Southeast Asia – arguably the region’s most important industry – has received a major boost with the endorsement of three new strategies by the Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry of the ten-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Implemented and coordinated by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the new measures are aimed at three major challenges facing rice production in ASEAN:

1) The environment. ASEAN has endorsed the development of a series of environmental indicators for rice production in the region focused on production, biodiversity, pollution, land degradation, and water.

2) Getting the latest knowledge and information to rice farmers. ASEAN has endorsed the further development of the Rice Knowledge Bank (RKB) for rice farmers (www.knowledgebank.irri.org/), Asia’s first digital extension service in agriculture. The RKB is a repository of rice information contributing to the development of localized and integrated Web sites with credible, reliable, and demand-driven information for rice farmers.

3) Developing the next generation of rice farmers and scientists. Few young people in Asia today are interested in rice production, despite its obvious importance to the region, so ASEAN has endorsed the development of rice camps for young Asians to encourage them to consider a career in rice.

The decision to endorse the three new activities was made at the 28th meeting of the ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) in Singapore on 16 November 2006. In a joint press statement issued at the end of the annual meeting, the AMAF endorsed:

“The further development of a series of environmental indicators for ASEAN rice production as presented as a joint activity with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The ministers also endorsed the continued development of a digital Rice Knowledge Bank for ASEAN rice farmers, and the establishment of rice camps at IRRI to educate the young people of ASEAN on the importance of rice farming and rice research.”

Full details of the joint press statement of the 28th AMAF meeting can be viewed at www.aseansec.org/18812.htm. AMAF includes two of the world’s biggest rice exporters, Thailand and Vietnam, which in 2003-05 produced 160.7 million tons of rice out of a world total of 601.4 million tons.

“To have ASEAN member countries endorse these very important activities at the ministerial level is obviously a crucial step forward, and we are very grateful for such high-level political support,” Dr. Robert S. Zeigler, IRRI’s director general, said. “With major Asian rice producers such as Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar now officially part of these activities, we hope to reach out to other countries in Asia – especially China and India – for their support also.”

Dr. Zeigler said having all the ASEAN nations supporting the Rice Knowledge Bank makes it one of the most important tools for Asian agriculture now available on the Internet. “ASEAN is also now a world leader in the development of environmental indicators for agriculture, as this level of ministerial support has not been achieved anywhere else.”

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations was established on 8 August 1967. The member countries are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is the world’s leading rice research and training center. Based in the Philippines and with offices in 10 other Asian countries, it is an autonomous, nonprofit institution focused on improving the well-being of present and future generations of rice farmers and consumers, particularly those with low incomes, while preserving natural resources. IRRI is one of 15 centers funded through the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an association of public and private donor agencies. Please visit the CGIAR website (www.cgiar.org) for more information.

For information, please contact:
Duncan Macintosh, IRRI, DAPO Box 7777, Metro Manila, Philippines; tel +63-2-580-5600; fax: +63-2-580-5699; email d.macintosh@cgiar.org .

Web sites:
IRRI Home (www.irri.org),
IRRI Library (http://ricelib.irri.org),
Rice Knowledge Bank (www.knowledgebank.irri.org).

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