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The livestock revolution: a pathway from poverty. Opening speech at the Crawford Fund Conference, Canberra, 2003
SPEECH MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER
13 August 2003
The Livestock Revolution: A Pathway from Poverty
Speech by the Hon Alexander Downer, MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the Crawford Fund conference: The Livestock Revolution: A Pathway from Poverty Canberra, 13 August 2003.
I'm very pleased to be here once again, to open the annual Crawford Fund Conference at Parliament House.
The Crawford Fund, under the very able chairmanship of Tim Fisher, does fine work in ensuring that Australia's agricultural research helps better the lives of millions of people in developing nations around the world.
The annual Conferences of the Fund provide an important opportunity to discuss key aspects of global development in creative and thought-provoking ways.
And what I particularly admire is the fact that the debates and discussions are directed towards securing practical outcomes to help alleviate poverty.
This conference on the 'Livestock Revolution as a Pathway from Poverty' is very much in line with that fine tradition.
Reducing poverty in rural areas and increasing food security are key objectives of our Australia's aid program.
Today I propose to show how livestock is at the very heart of that effort in that in that it enhances rural development and food security in many developing countries.
And then more specifically, I will also touch upon how we are deploying Australian expertise and leadership in the region to help beef up - forgive the pun - sustainable management of livestock.
Finally I would like to make the point that our trade liberalisation efforts can also help livestock farmers in developing countries, by helping them get access to international markets and hence find a way out of poverty.
A tribute to Derek Tribe
But first I will begin by paying tribute to Professor Derek Tribe, who passed away this year.
I know his loss will be keenly felt by the agricultural research community in Australia and internationally, and of course by members of the Crawford Fund, which he founded.
Derek was a man of vision and conviction.
He passionately believed in the role of international agricultural research in alleviating poverty.
He was also a man of action who worked indefatigably to make his visions become reality.
The improved levels of training and education that flow from the International Development Program that Derek led, and the R and D that flows from investments by Australian agencies such as ACIAR and AusAID in agricultural research, were all part of Derek's vision.
What is more, he maintained his commitment, interest and influence until his death.
Derek's life could be summed up in the words of the title of one of his many books - 'Doing well by doing good'.
Derek did well and he did good.
Livestock: essential to our rural development efforts
Let me now turn to the focus of today's seminar, livestock production and poverty alleviation - an issue which Professor Derek Tribe saw as vital in improving the economic well-being of whole communities in the developing world.
As you well know, the majority of the world's poorest people live in rural areas.
Agricultural and rural development are therefore essential building blocks for our region's future.
That is why we will be investing some $255 million in 2003-04 in rural development, mostly in the Asia-Pacific region.
And that is why in countries such as Cambodia, Laos, East Timor and Papua New Guinea, we aim our development programs squarely at rural populations.
Our strategy is based on the premise that the best way to reduce rural poverty is through sustainable agriculture and increased opportunities for the rural poor to generate income from farming and non-farming activities.
Livestock is one such opportunity.
Driven by increasing incomes in developing countries, the demand for livestock products - meat, egg and dairy products - is increasing at a far greater rate than the demand for staple crops.
The landless rural poor stand to gain from this so-called livestock revolution.
Indeed they derive a great proportion of their wealth from livestock, which often is seen as a real family asset - better than money in the bank.
In many less developed countries, livestock accounts for a high percentage of the value of output from agriculture.
In India for example, income from livestock amounts to 30 to 50 per cent of total farm income and hence is important in alleviating poverty.
We need only look at our own experience to understand the link between economic development and livestock.
There was a time when Australia did live off the sheep's back, a time when wool production did provide a badly needed boost to our economy.
Helping Asia-Pacific countries to make the most of livestock
Building on that experience, Australia is helping to develop sustainable solutions to livestock problems in developing countries in the region.
The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research -ACIAR - which received funding of about $46 million last year for more than 220 research projects across the region, is doing remarkable work in this area.
ACIAR-funded projects, with help from AusAid:
â address animal and fish health, food safety and policy constraints
â improve livestock feed quality and quantity and reproductive and genetic technologies
â increase the value of livestock and fish outputs
â and reduce the environmental effects of livestock and fish production.
One example is a project ACIAR funded to introduce genes from Australian large white pigs from Queensland into the local pig breeds in Vietnam, through artificial insemination centres funded by AusAID.
This 'Super-Pig' project, if I can call it that, resulted in larger and leaner pigs.
The economic benefits of these improvements, estimated at $A500 million by 2010, is going mainly to small-holder pig producers, helping them - dare I say - bring home the bacon.
Let me give you another example, a rather dramatic one in that it concerns foot and mouth disease, which - as we saw a few years ago - has the potential to cripple global trade in livestock products.
ACIAR and AusAID have funded work on diagnosis and control of foot-and-mouth disease in South East Asian countries - with splendid results in the Philippines, where the project has dramatically reduced the prevalence of the disease.
The importance of trade liberalisation
But aid is only part of the story in helping livestock farmers in developing countries.
We must also help them get access to international markets.
While I freely admit it is a pet topic of mine - indeed I could talk about it until the cows come home - I cannot stress enough the importance I place on Australia's trade policies in reducing poverty.
The Doha round of World Trade Organisation negotiations presents a major opportunity for developing countries to secure better trading conditions, and fairer trade rules, that will help underpin development.
This is especially the case for agriculture - many of the 100 WTO developing country members are agricultural producers.
Protectionism in developed countries hurts poor countries that depend on agriculture for their livelihoods the hardest, including livestock producers.
For example, the US Agriculture Department estimates high agricultural trade barriers and subsidies, particularly in the EU, the United States and Japan, worth around US$1 billion a day cut prices for global agricultural output by 12 per cent annually.
For low and middle income East Asian and Pacific economies, such policies could cut agricultural output value by over US$37 billion each year or about 5 times the US$7.7 billion these economies receive in aid annually.
The World Bank estimates developing countries would gain about US $100 billion a year if developed and developing countries removed all their trade barriers against developing country exports.
This far exceeds the US$57 billion developing countries get each year in aid.
The current Doha Round of WTO trade negotiations is a welcome opportunity to reduce, if not eliminate, these barriers.
But so far, the European Union and Japan have been unwilling to meet the mandate for agricultural reform agreed at Doha.
A successful outcome to the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in September, will be critical if negotiations are to progress.
This will require further specific proposals from the European Union and Japan to show that they are prepared to open their agriculture markets.
Australia, for its part, has been at the forefront of trade liberalisation by reducing protection and subsidies.
We continue to take an ambitious but pragmatic approach in international forums to champion the interests of free trade - and developing countries - in agricultural products.
We will be spending $31 million in 2003-04 to help developing countries participate in the Round and the global economy.
And we will be providing tariff and quota free access for all goods produced in the world's 49 Least Developed Countries and in East Timor from 1 July this year.
We are leading by example because we believe that a fairer global trading regime is the best way to help the two billion poor in developing countries find a pathway from poverty.
Ladies and gentlemen
Australia is very conscious of the need to harness the so-called livestock revolution to help alleviate poverty in the Asia-Pacific region.
A conference such as this provides new impetus for this important debate, and thereby advances the development agenda for our region.
I'm sure that the distinguished speakers who will be making presentations today will inspire us further in our efforts, as will the memory of Professor Derek Tribe.
In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for the success of your deliberations.