BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – ASEAN countries inked a memorandum of understanding on agriculture and forestry cooperation Tuesday, in a bid to boost intra-regional trade and involve more agricultural producers in the economic integration process.

Brunei chaired the 41st ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry Meeting (AMAF) today, aimed at forging greater cross-country cooperation in food, agriculture and forestry. 

Speaking at the opening of the meeting, Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Ali Apong said the scope of AMAF had broadened significantly over the years, moving from cooperation in food production and supply to working together in food security and safety, as well as research and development. 

Under the new MoU, member states recognised the need to realign the food, agriculture, and forestry sectors to be compatible with ASEAN economic integration.

They also agreed to boost the volume and quality of food production and enhance market access for small producers. 

The ministers acknowledged the sectors’ importance to the ASEAN economy, its impact on poverty alleviation and the need for capacity-building through transfer of technology.

At the end of the meeting, the MoU was handed over to the Secretary General of ASEAN Dato Paduka Lim Jock Hoi.

Earlier in the day, HRH Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Bilah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, opened the meeting, stressing the need for ASEAN to improve food security as the world’s population is projected to grow to 10 billion by 2050.

With this in mind, ASEAN needs to raise the production and productivity of its agriculture and food sectors, he said.

“Much of the future of ASEAN’s food security will be shaped by the decisions we make now. It is our future generation who will continue to face the question of food security. Hence it is crucial we include our youths in these discussions and provide the right support and encouragement to enhance their role in the food security agenda.”

Capacity-building must also remain on top of our priority list as policy makers, he added.

“It is our moral obligation to create the right environment to provide access to technologies and nurture the right skills to ensure the success of our youths to become leading pioneers and innovators in the area of food and agriculture.”