Agriculture and forestry ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) +3, which includes 10 member states plus the three nations of the People’s Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of South Korea, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) reaffirming their committment to advancing cooperation in food, agriculture and forestry sectors across the region.

By signing the MoU, ministers welcomed the development of the ASEAN +3 Cooperation Strategy (APTCS), which consists of six strategic areas, namely food security, biomass energy development, sustainable forest management, climate change mitigation and adaptation, animal health and disease control and cross-cutting issues.

One of the agreements signed during the 33rd meeting of the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) is the ASEAN +3 Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR) agreement.

By signing the APTERR, the 13 countries agreed to provide 787,000 tons of rice stock to anticipate the destablizing effect on supply and production that can be caused by natural disasters, 87,000 tons of which will be provided by the ASEAN countries. Thailand will provide 15,000 tons, Vietnam and Myanmar 14,000 tons, Indonesia and the Philippines 12,000 tons, Malaysia 6,000 tons and Singapore 5,000 tons, with Brunei, Laos and Cambodia providing 3,000 tons each. China, Japan and Korea will prepare 300,000 tons, 250,000 tons and 150,000 tons respectively.

“Indonesia has proposed to double its contribution of rice to the agreed rice stock. So we are ready anytime needed,” Indonesian Minister of Agriculture Suswono told reporters at the meeting, adding that each country would keep its contribution at home and also that Thailand had been appointed to host AMAF’s secretariat.

Suswono stated that the APTERR agreement was also important to ensure that the price stability of supply and production were both maintained.

Under the agreement, 13 countries also committed to allocating US$4 million for APTERR’s endowment fund and to disburse $S300,000 for its operational costs.

Delivering a speech to the AMAF +3 meeting in Jakarta on Friday, the Vice President said that the leaders of ASEAN expected much from the event. “Since the last ASEAN Summit in May, ASEAN leaders have expressed their concerns and have assigned relevant ministries to discuss concrete actions on food security,” he said. “I hope there will be several valuable recommendations from this meeting.”

Boediono added that ASEAN +3, home to a combined population of 2.1 billion, should establish a regional strategy on food security as soon as possible.

“I call on the 13 countries to work hand in hand, especially in developing joint research and development in food quality, boosting investment in the food industry and setting up acceptable policies related to food trade,” he said.

Boediono said that advanced research on the agriculture industry would play a significant role in increasing food production. He said that countries should increase their food production to 75 percent to meet the required level of food security. “Developing countries should even double their production to secure their domestic stock,” he went on.

In addition to APTERR, the ASEAN ministers also signed an agreement with the World Organization for Animal Health, linking ASEAN’s Regional Animal Health Information System with the World Animal Health System.

Amid the celebrations of ASEAN and the International Year of Forests 2011, the 33rd AMAF meeting has also served to emphasize countries’ commitment to encouraging initiatives aimed at developing the ASEAN Mangrove Network and Social Forestry Network. (lfr,msa) –The Jakarta Post, Jakarta