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Countries across Asia and the Pacific are joining an initiative to promote and showcase the ‘best of the best’ of their special agricultural products – a move designed to ensure a high level of participation from smallholders to producers to exporters and others all along the value chain

FAO OCOPParticipation in OCOP is said to be a great opportunity for all countries in the region to improve rural conditions through agricultural advances. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

To help build momentum, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) today launched the ‘Global Action on Green Development of Special Agricultural Products: One Country One Priority Product (OCOP) in Asia and the Pacific,’ encouraging countries of the region to join the initiative, developing green value chains and promoting their special agricultural products internationally.

Close to 250 participants from countries across Asia and the Pacific attended the virtual launch, including Ministries of agriculture, senior government officials, technical experts, and representatives of development partners, research institutes, and the private sector. Specialists from other regions of the world also joined the event.

OCOP was launched globally by the FAO director-general, QU Dongyu, in September 2021. The launch of this regional, Asia-Pacific global action of OCOP aims to develop green and sustainable value chains for special agricultural products, while supporting smallholders and family farmers to reap the full benefits of access to a global market, ultimately helping the transformation of current agri-food systems. The ultimate aim is to achieve better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all – leaving no one behind.

In an opening address, Beth Bechdol, FAO deputy director-general, outlined the many specialty agricultural products the region has to offer to the world. “The Asia-Pacific region is special, home to more than 50% of the world’s population, where agricultural development and rural livelihoods are a top priority – a region with a long and rich history of agricultural development,” she said, adding that participation in OCOP was a great opportunity for all countries in the region.

High-level participation

The regional OCOP launch event included the participation and presentations of government ministers from China, Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Samoa and Thailand. Ministerial-level interventions were also made on behalf of their governments by participants from Bhutan and the Solomon Islands.

The attendees from Asia and the Pacific nations spoke highly of the special agricultural products their countries and sub-regions can offer the world – products that go well beyond the staple foods that most people consume.

Examples given were vegetables and herbs that have multiple values and uses such as cooking, traditional medicines, food supplements and those which can help to conserve biodiversity and support farming communities. A greater focus on export through horticulture and cash crops was also discussed as was the promotion of quinoa, a highly nutritious food.

Participants also noted that through leveraging OCOP, it would be possible to gain greater access to inputs such as improved varieties; investing in climate-smart technology, land management, farm mechanisation, and equally important, market access and trade facilitation.