Royal call for innovation to maximise food production
By James Kon

In the efforts to ensure food security for the people of Asean, including Brunei Darussalam, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office believes that innovation based upon science and technology will be a primary contributor to the maximisation of food production in a sustainable, more cost effective and environmentally responsible manner.

His Royal Highness delivered his 'sabda' at the opening of the 31st Asean Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry Meeting (31st AMAF) yesterday at the Grand Hall Ballroom of The Empire Hotel and Country Club.

His Royal Highness said, "Innovations in food production must not only increase the safety and quality of food products, they must also find a new way to ensure that food production can be increased without detriment to the environment.

"We must also recognise that substantial and continuous investment are required for the necessary capacity building and research and development that drive innovation in our food production. Asean must therefore continue to look into effective ways to encourage investment in the agricultural sector to further enhance the region's capacity in food and production," HRH added.

During the 14th Asean Summit, His Royal Highness said, "Our leaders adopted the Asean Integrated Food Security Framework and the Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security in the Asean region. It is clear that AMAF in collaboration with its other relevant ministerial colleagues has much work to undertake in order to implement the various measures contained in the framework as well as the strategic plan of action.

"Our leaders have also given their support to the continuation of the East Asia Emergency Rice Reserve pilot project and instructed us to expedite the establishment of the Asean Plus three Emergency Rice Reserve as a permanent mechanism."

To achieve the important objective, His Royal Highness said, "We will require close coordination with all relevant international organisations whilst also taking into account the views of our members and their commitments and consistency with international rules."

In Brunei Darussalam, His Royal Highness said, "Most of our food supplies are imported and as a consequence, food security is of vital importance to us. In this regard, the Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam fully supports and is committed to the principles and objectives of the East Asia Emergency Rice Reserve Pilot Project and the establishment of the Asean Plus three Emergency Rice Reserve," HRH said.

Citing the recent Cha-am Hua Hin statement on Asean Plus three Cooperation on Food Security and Bio Energy Development, His Royal Highness said, "Our leaders have tasked AMAF in consultation with other relevant ministers and international institutions to develop a comprehensive strategy on sustainable and integrated food and bio fuel production and consumption. I am confident that with this tasking from our leaders, your excellencies will dedicate the necessary priority to this matter in your deliberations."

In contributing towards a wider goal for greater Asean integration and cohesiveness, HRH said, "We should also look at each other's successes and learn other's best practices so that we may better understand how to develop a comprehensive regional strategy for sustainable and integrated food and bio fuel production and consumption. We may also wish to share information on our respective experience whilst also enhancing capacity building and technical cooperation to promote the harmonisation of food safety and bio energy production standards in Asean."

HRH also added, " I would like to reaffirm the commitment of the Government of His Majesty to enhancing cooperation and making meaningful and significant contributions to sustainable agricultural development in the region.

"I encourage all delegations to work together in the best spirit of Asean cooperation, to meet the very real challenges Asean faces in endeavouring to fulfil the requirements for greater food production and security for our growing communities." - Borneo Bulletin (11th November 2009)