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Promoting Highly-valued & Country-specific Foods Is Gaining Momentum For Domestic & Foreign Consumption In Asia-Pacific

Regional event will bring together nutritional treasures from across Asia and the Pacific 19-20 July, in Dhaka

Dhaka, 19 Jul 2023 -- With the world’s population larger than ever, and still growing rapidly, more nutritious foods need to be produced worldwide, while also minimising the impact on the environment. The food produced for us moves along a complex value chain to reach the mouths of consumers, while providing livelihoods for many millions along the way.

Many foods and agricultural products are native to a large number of countries around the world, but in most nations there is at least one product, in particular, that stands out and can receive a higher level of visibility.

Just two examples from the Asia-Pacific region are taro root vegetables from the Cook Islands and Chilgoza Pine Nuts from Pakistan. But there are dozens of other examples in this region.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is prioritising support for countries worldwide to develop their special agricultural products through its One Country One Priority Product (OCOP) initiative.

As part of this awareness-raising drive, 22 countries from the Asia and Pacific region are gathering in Dhaka, Bangladesh from 19 to 20 July to exchange knowledge regarding their OCOP priority products, and to discuss their sustainable development projects for further promotion and consumption – both for domestic and foreign markets.

How the OCOP approach can make a difference

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Research by FAO has found that more than half of our calories come from just nine plant species, even though an estimated 27 500 edible plants are growing around the world. Diversifying towards underutilized types of food is an opportunity to improve food security and become more resilient to shocks like diseases like those that can drastically reduce a staple crop’s yield and affordability (e.g. Fall armyworm or the recent invasions of Moroccan locust in Asia). While making the most of the rich variety grown and eaten around the world, OCOP’s global reach makes it a strategic entry point for disseminating a holistic set of policies and technical capacity that can support an agrifood transformation that benefits the environment, livelihoods and nutrition.

Indeed the OCOP initiative continues to grow in the Asia and Pacific region. Many countries are actively participating in this initiative, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Cook Islands, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Nauru, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Viet Nam.

Influence of Asia and the Pacific on OCOP

OCOP began in 2021 but it has roots stretching back to the ‘One Village One Product’ movement which started in the Oita prefecture of Japan in 1979. The approach proved successful from an early stage, and Asia and the Pacific was where many of this movement’s early adopters refined the approach and showed how it can be adapted to benefit many differing contexts.

The two-day event in Dhaka showcases the OCOP projects in Asia and the Pacific, and demonstrates that this region continues to play an active role for this innovative and inclusive approach.

The influential experiences from the region are presented in an FAO study published in 2022 by the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and available on the OCOP global website OCOP participants and through which other stakeholders can learn.

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