Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you to all the speakers for your very interesting presentations.

Before talking about how EU and ASEAN farmers can build stronger structures for cooperation, I'd like to recall the role of farmers in modern society.

I put it to you that farmers are more vital than ever for the wellbeing of our people, and our planet. Consider the statistics:  The world's population today is 7.3 billion and is projected to rise to 10 billion in the year 2056. Indeed, this very day, the global population will increase by 84,500 people.

In addition to population growth, we see clear evidence of changing dietary habits as disposable incomes increase, with the so-called 'middle class' expected to more than double in size from 2 billion today to close to 5 billion in 2030.

Rapid growth here in Indonesia, as well as China, India, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia will cause Asia’s share of these emerging markets to more than double from its current 30 per cent.

We must also remember that in spite of huge progress in recent decades, more than 800 million people still suffer from chronic hunger in the world today. At the same time, the challenge is becoming more difficult.

It is estimated that that an additional $267 billion per year will be needed for investment in rural and urban areas and in social protection to eradicate world hunger sustainably by 2030.

All this means that we are facing a real test when it comes to global food security. The FAO has projected the necessity of a 60 per cent increase of agricultural production by 2050, compared to 2007.

So farmers have a massive responsibility to produce more - and better – food to feed the peoples of the world.

The picture is made even more complex by the fact that farmers also need to play a bigger part in combating climate change. We are all aware of the effects of climate change and the increasing acceptance that something has to be done to address those effects.

Last year's Paris Climate Conference, or COP 21, committed the nations of the world to doing much more to combat climate change. In other words, as well as producing more food, farmers need to do so while decreasing the impact of their production on the environment.

For this reason, finding new and enhanced structures for farmers to cooperate at local, regional and international level are crucially important.

And the family farm will be at the heart of all these plans. In Europe, just as in Asia, family farming is the most common operational farming model.

The majority of the EU’s 12 million farms are family farms, passed down from one generation to another. They make a decisive contribution to the socio-economic and environmental sustainability of rural areas.

Indeed, I grew up on a family farm myself. Before I entered politics, I helped to manage my family's small mixed farm in Ireland's County Kilkenny. I understand the rewards and challenges that come with living and working on the land.

Globally speaking, family farms and small farms produce 80% of world's food by value.

More than 90 percent of the 570 million farms worldwide are family farms. This means they are managed by an individual or a family and rely primarily on family labour.

Farms smaller than 2 hectares account for 84 percent of all farms and control only 12 percent of all agricultural land.

And it should be noted that many of the larger farms are family-owned also.

Family farms are a major contributor to food security, providing a diverse food supply and enhancing the vitality of the rural economy.

And family farms are absolutely vital when it comes to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals to end hunger (as outlined in SDG2) and achieve inclusive and efficient agricultural and food systems (as in SDG 12). Raising the income of family farmers is recognised as the key to rural poverty reduction (in SDG1).

Family farmers range from smallholder to medium-scale farmers, and include indigenous peoples, traditional communities, fishing folk, mountain farmers, pastoralists and many other groups.

They run diversified agricultural systems and preserve traditional food products, contributing both to a balanced diet and the safeguarding of the world’s agro-biodiversity. 

Family farmers are embedded in territorial networks and local cultures, and spend their incomes mostly within local and regional markets, generating many agricultural and non-agricultural jobs. 

All the characteristics I have mentioned mean that family farmers hold the unique potential to move towards more productive and sustainable food systems if policy environments support them in this path. 

Europe has recognised the critical and enduring importance of the family farm. The EU strongly supported 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming.

Our shared Common Agricultural Policy has explicitly taken some concrete steps to recognise the challenges facing small family farms.

Family farms face many challenges such as farming resources, the lack of young people entering farming, and climate change (extreme weather events).

They also face stronger competition resulting from a more globalised food system. And they need to compete in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship. As I mentioned earlier, the requirement for both economic viability and environmentally sustainable management creates a complex challenge to family farmers.

To deal with all these challenges, to find better ways to face the future, and to attract young people to work in farming, it is essential to build stronger system for cooperation between farmers, both at home and abroad.

Family farms and small-scale farmers, left on their own, are often unable to effectively engage in modern business and market practices and they have limited access to new and more sustainable farming practices.

In the EU or in the ASEAN region, cooperation between family farmers is therefore absolutely essential. Producer and Farmer Organizations serve as the legitimate and permanent cooperation structure among family farmers.

The FOs provide essential services for the development and resilience of family farms. They evolve, restructure and work to support the emergence of other organizations according to the needs and  functions of family farms.

These could mean other forms of producer organizations, Federations, or Cooperatives of various types relating to marketing, access to credit, to name just two examples. 

The role of cooperatives has been recognized both in the EU and ASEAN as one of the key drivers for sustainable rural development. Through farmers’ cooperatives, family farmers can increase their market power and have access to credit and input, facilitate access to technical assistance and other support services.

On the other hand, one of the major challenges faced by the agricultural sector in both the EU and ASEAN is the decreasing interest of young people to engage in farming.

In line with this, EU and ASEAN need to look into program cooperation that will ensure that innovative incentives are made available to young farmers to attract them to work in agriculture as a viable livelihood.

Given these common concerns for strengthening agricultural cooperative and attracting youth into farming, today's dialogue is extremely positive. I am encouraged by the potential initiatives I have heard here so far.

And I encourage you to continue working together in the future to do even more. Thank you.