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28 January 2011

Press Release No: G/01/2011

Facilitating Agricultural Trade is Key to Poverty Reduction and Food


Security in Asia and the Pacific

Make food products more accessible and affordable, says high level regional
forum

Bangkok (UN ESCAP Information Services) -- Concerned over the sharp rise in
food prices and the impact of export barriers on food safety, participants in
a meeting organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the
Pacific (ESCAP) stressed the need for facilitating intraregional agricultural
trade. This will help ensure accessibility and affordability of food
products.

Dr. Ravi Ratnayake, Director of the Trade and Investment Division of ESCAP,
said that promoting agricultural trade in the Asia-Pacific region is
important for addressing poverty in Asia and the Pacific, where over 70
percent of the poor live in rural areas and have agriculture as their main
livelihood.

With rising populations and the emergence of relatively affluent population


segments seeking dietary diversity, the demand for food products in general,
and high-value processed food in particular, has been rising. He noted there
is a great potential for agricultural exports in the region.

Analyzing constraints to agricultural exports, senior policy makers,


academics, exporters, logistics providers, and UN and Asian Development Bank
(ADB) experts at the High-level Consultation on Facilitating Agricultural
Trade in Asia and the Pacific organized in Bangkok by ESCAP this week noted
that the rapid emergence of stringent private standards for food products in
the West has become a major challenge. There are significant gaps in quality
infrastructure and technical know-how that prevent developing countries to
meet these standards. They emphasized the need for regional cooperation in
building capacity and developing mechanisms for accreditation of testing
facilities.

It was noted that trade procedures related to agricultural products were much
more complex and cumbersome than those of manufacturing products. In some
South Asian countries it could take up to 41 days to prepare paperwork for a
single transaction for the export of agricultural products. Inefficient trade
procedures could result in loss of the entire consignment due to spoilage.
Participants pointed out that simplified transport procedures and adequate
border infrastructure facilities are crucial for fast passage of agro-export
products.

Exporters highlighted that it is extremely difficult for agro-exporters to


obtain trade finance due to price, weather, and collateral risks attached to
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agricultural products. Participants stressed the need for innovative trade
financing for agro-exports. They stressed that international financial
institutions need to provide credit enhancement and direct support for trade
finance.

A number of good practices and success stories in trade facilitation for


agricultural products were showcased at the meeting. Cambodian experience
showed the effectiveness of efforts to streamline rice export processes,
integrate producers into the sub-regional value chain, diversify into new
products, and engage the private sector in these processes. UN and ADB
experts shared successful initiatives on trade facilitation for agricultural
products in the region. Senior policy makers from Bangladesh, Lao PDR and
Nepal presented country status and priorities in this area.

Participants put forward recommendations to directly help promote


agricultural exports in the region’s low-income countries. These include
regional cooperation mechanisms to develop food safety and quality
infrastructure in low-income countries; exploring innovative ways to solve
trade finance bottlenecks for agro-exports; and helping countries apply
paperless trading in the agro-export sector with the help of the UN Network
of Experts on Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific (UNNExT). It was noted
that the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA) could be used to initiate pilot
projects for trade facilitation capacity building.

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Shamika Sirimanne,


Chief, Trade Facilitation Section
Trade and Investment Division, UNESCAP
Tel: +66-2-288-1638 +66-2-288-1638
E-mail: sirimanne@un.org

Ms. Thawadi Pachariyangkun,


UN ESCAP Information Services,
Tel: +66-2 288-1861 +66-2 288-1861,
Mobile: +66-81 634-3876 +66-81 634-3876
Email: pachariyangkun.unescap@un.org and unisbkk.unescap@un.org

United Nations Information Centre – Jakarta


Menara Thamrin, 3A floor, Jalan M.H. Thamrin kav.3
Jakarta 10250
Tel. (6221) 3983-1011, 3983-1013, Fax. (6221) 3983-1014
Email: unic-jakarta@unic-jakarta.org ; Twitter: @unic_jakarta