Hobart conference next week on agricultural statistics in Asia and the Pacific, Oct 1998

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October 28, 1998
Embargoed 11:30am (AEST)

Hobart conference next week on agricultural statistics in Asia and the Pacific

The recent financial crisis in many Asian countries has highlighted the importance of good quality and relevant statistics. A particular long term concern now is whether there will be enough food for the citizens of the countries in the region.

Given that agricultural statistics are an important contributor to knowledge on the supply of food, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has adopted this as one of the key topics for discussion at its Seventeenth Session of the Asia and Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics in Hobart from 2-6 November. The session is being hosted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics which is active in assisting countries in the region to develop their statistical systems.

Delegations from Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Fiji, France, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Republic of Korea, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United States of America have confirmed their attendance. The Australian delegation will be composed of representatives from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Bureau for Agricultural and Resource Economics, the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment and the New South Wales Department of Agriculture.

Representatives and observers from the Asian Development Bank, the Asian Productivity Organisation, the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the South East Asian Fisheries Development Center, and the Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific are expected to attend. The FAO is providing the Secretariat for the conference.

A major topic of discussion among the agenda items at the session will be that of Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System (FIVIMS).

This is important because the assessment of the extent of hunger and malnutrition at local, country, regional and global level is of paramount importance for development planning and for directing efforts and resources to reducing by half the number of undernourished people in the world not later than 2015, in line with a plan of action that came from the World Food Summit (13-17 November, 1996). Similarly, knowledge of the number, nature and exact location of vulnerable people in times of emergency would greatly facilitate the relief operations and the targeting of beneficiaries of food aid programmes.

Media who may be interested in reporting on the conference (being held at Wrest Point Convention Centre) should advise the ABS Media and Public Affairs Unit as soon as possible. A copy of the provisional timetable and list of delegates is available on request. Contact Steve Dangaard, Assistant Director, Media and Public Affairs Unit, Tel: (02) 6252 7480 Fax: (02) 6252 8002 or e-mail on steve.dangaard@abs.gov.au, for further assistance.


The Sixth World Food Survey reviewed the world food situation for the triennium 1990-92. The results, published in 1996, estimated that approximately 840 million people in developing countries are undernourished. In developing countries approximately 528 million children under five years of age were underweight, stunted or wasted. Two out of five children in the developing world are stunted (low height for age), one out of three is underweight (low weight for age) and one out of ten is wasted (low weight for height).

The number of people who are food insecure due to specific nutrient deficiencies is less well known mainly because of difficulties in definition, measurement, and lack of data, but the numbers are likely to be much greater. The best available estimates suggest that approximately 250 million children are deficient in vitamin A, over 800 million people suffer from iodine deficiency, and up to 2 000 million people are affected by iron deficiency and anaemia.

The vast majority of the food insecure, whether their undernourishment is due to deficiencies in energy or micro-nutrients, live in low income developing countries. Millions more live in conditions which expose them to varying degrees of risk - a concept which is generally well-understood but rarely quantified.

The FIVIMS discussion at the conference will be to review the third draft of a set of guidelines for the setting up of national FIVIMS.

What is meant by food insecurity and vulnerability ?

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Household food security is the application of this concept to the family level, with individuals within households as the focus of concern.

For the purpose of FIVIMS, food insecurity exists when people are undernourished due to the physical unavailability of food, their lack of social or economic access, and/or inadequate food utilisation. Food insecure people are those individuals whose food intake falls below their minimum calorie (energy) requirements, as well as those who exhibit physical symptoms caused by energy and nutrient deficiencies resulting from an inadequate or unbalanced diet, or from inability of the body to use food effectively because of infection or disease.

Vulnerability refers to the full range of factors that place people at risk of becoming food insecure. The degree of vulnerability for an individual, household or group of persons is determined by their exposure to the risk factors and their ability to cope with or withstand stressful situations.