AGRICULTURE Secretary William Dar, along with his counterparts from Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore and Laos, has committed to continue pursuing innovative programs to attain sustainable agricultural production and food systems amid the pandemic.

In a virtual meeting on Monday, the six agriculture officials issued a joint statement, leading to the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) in New York in September this year. A pre-summit for the UNFSS will be held in Rome on July 26 to 28, 2021.

During the said meeting initiated by the Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), the agriculture leaders jointly recognized the importance of achieving sustainable agricultural production and food systems globally.

"As countries belonging to the Monsoon Asia region, we share several regional particularities with regards to agricultural production, including distinctive climate conditions such as high humidity and high temperature, abundance of paddy fields, and high percentage of small- and medium-sized farmers," the officials said in a joint statement.

Apart from Dar, the agriculture officials who made the commitment were Minister Nogami Kotaro of MAFF Japan, Minister Veng Sakhon of MAFF Cambodia, Laos Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Phet Phomphiphak, Vice Minister Le Quoc Doanh of Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Lim Kok Thay, chief executive officer of the Singapore Food Agency.

The officials also stressed that: "We believe innovation in the realm of agriculture and related industries is the key to sustainable agricultural production and food systems, especially for small- and medium-sized farmers, and private sector investments need to be encouraged to enhance this innovation."

"Also, international collaboration is important to introduce innovative and sustainable agricultural practices and technologies, such as digital tools, machineries and pest control tools, and we decide to promote and deepen our collaboration through joint research projects and existing frameworks for bilateral and plurilateral cooperation to achieve a balance between productivity and environmental protection," they concluded.

For his part, Dar encouraged his counterparts to unite and strive to achieve desired goals and initiate transformative change in their respective countries.

"We acknowledge that our countries are confronted with similar challenges to our agriculture sector and food systems. Thus, we fully support any international or regional collaboration and initiatives that will result in increased agricultural productivity, competitiveness and profitability, taking into account sustainability and resilience for our agriculture smallholders," he said.