Contents -

V. Major trends and policies in food and agriculture

A. Statements by heads of delegations in the general discussion
B. World food and agriculture situation
C. International Agricultural Adjustment
D. Land, food and population
E. Progress report on WCARRD programme of action
F. Progress report on world food day activities

A. Statements by heads of delegations in the general discussion

30. The Plenary General Discussion was opened by the Director-General. The text of his statement is given in Appendix D. Following this, 135 speakers participated in the discussion: the Independent Chairman of the Council, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Sudan, the Prime Minister of Dominica, 120 Heads of delegations - of which 100 were Ministers and Vice-Ministers, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to FAO, representatives of five UN bodies (International Fund for Agricultural Development, United Nations Environment Programme, Economic Commission for Africa, Economic Commission for Western Asia, World Food Council), the European Economic Community and observers from two intergovernmental organizations and three international non-governmental organizations having consultative status with FAO. The statement of one Member Nation was inserted in the records.

B. World food and agriculture situation

State of food and agriculture
Progress in implementation of the plan of action to strengthen world food security - re-appraisal of concepts and approaches

State of food and agriculture

31. The Conference reviewed the world and regional food and agricultural situation on the basis of the Director-General's report, the State of Food and Agriculture 1983, and its Supplement, and generally endorsed his analysis and assessment of the situation.

32. The Conference considered that the basic situation had deteriorated and was tending to become more uncertain and insecure. It noted with concern the decline in world food production in 1983 although this was unlikely to affect the adequacy of global food supplies. Despite some positive developments in certain areas, the dependence of world food security on the success of the harvest of the next year had increased again.

- World Situation

33. The Conference considered that the overall economic setting, which significantly affected agriculture and rural development, continued to be uncertain. Furthermore, hardly any progress had been made in international cooperation for development. Despite hopeful signs that the global recession was lifting, doubt remained concerning the speed, extent and durability of the recovery in developed countries, with inevitable repercussions on the world economy. The Conference regretted that economic performance in developing countries continued to lag behind the performance in developed countries. International trade remained depressed, government budgets were constrained and real financial flows were declining. There were virtually no signs of a general relaxation in protectionist pressures in trade, of a resumption in the growth of international trade and the transfer of resources, or of a decline in unemployment and real interest rates. Indeed, there was as yet no certainty as to how and when a recovery would have beneficial effects on developing countries.

- World Food Situation

34. The Conference noted with concern that, according to preliminary estimates, world food and agricultural production declined by 1 percent in 1983 following increases of about 3 percent in the preceding two years. It was important to note that, in developing countries, production had increased at a rate well below that of the two previous years and also lower than the average for 1978-82. In developed countries there had been a decline in food production (-8 percent), particularly in cereals including coarse grains (-13 to 14 percent), notably in North America.

35. The current level of cereal stocks at around 21 percent of annual consumption however assured adequacy of cereal supplies at the global level in 1983/84, although these stocks were held mainly by exporting countries and those of importing countries were virtually unchanged. Moreover, as the overall cereal stock situation in 1984/85 was forecast to fall to 17 percent of annual world consumption which, according to the FAO Secretariat's estimate, would represent the minimum safe level, world food security would depend more on the outcome of the next year's harvests than had been the case during the past year.

36. The Conference noted the satisfactory outcome of the generally favourable monsoˇn in Asia where food production in the developing market economies of the region was expected to increase by nearly 6 percent. Following the bumper harvest of last year, China's food output for this year registered new increases. Therefore China was likely to be well able to consolidate the real gains in food production achieved in the previous five years. However food production declined by more than one percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, offsetting some of the recent gains, and the rate of increase in the Near East slowed in 1983 to less than two thirds of its annual rate of the previous five years.

37. While, as reported later, the longer term situation in Africa received the special consideration of the Conference, short-term developments also were viewed with alarm. Food production in Africa had increased by less than 1 percent in 1983 and the average rate of increase during 1978-82 had failed to keep pace with the population growth of 3 percent. The Conference expressed concern at the alarming situation in almost half of the continent, with drought over much of Southern Africa, erratic rains and bush fires in West Africa, and the widespread incidence of rinderpest and other livestock diseases and plant pests. The Conference welcomed the initiative of the Director-General in establishing earlier in the year a FAO/WFP Special Task Force to monitor the situation in these countries, and supported the appeal for aid launched by the Director-General on 19 October and 10 November 1983. It urged the international community to step up its commitments of food aid and other forms of development assistance to these countries to enable affected agricultural sectors to be restored.

38. The Conference observed with concern the continuing problem of refugees in the world, of whom there were about 10 million, half of them in Africa. In this context the essential humanitarian role of the International Emergency Food Reserve (IEFR) was underlined. The Conference appealed for further contributions to the IEFR, especially in non-cereal foods from existing and new donors, in view of the fact that over one half of emergency food aid commitments from IEFR and WFP (World Food Programme) resources in the first 10 months of 1983 had been allocated to the needs of refugees and other victims of wars and civil strife. As the minimum annual replenishment target of 500 000 tons of cereals had not yet been fully reached in 1983, the Conference considered it important that all possible measures be taken to meet this objective and possibly exceed it, since this amount may not suffice to cover emergency needs.

- Food and Agriculture Trade

39. The Conference noted with concern that a decline of 8 percent in the value of world agricultural trade in 1982 followed a smaller decline in the previous year. The decrease was unevenly shared; developing countries had a greater decline of 10 percent, and their share of world agricultural trade went down further. The Conference expressed great concern that the decrease in agricultural export earnings of developing countries in 1982 would have serious effects on their growth prospects.

40. Repeated attention was drawn to the fact that the main factor contributing to the decline in the value of world trade was the persistent downtrend in world market prices of agricultural commodities. The overall decline in 1982 was 12 percent. The gains to importing countries arising from the decline in the prices of some inputs, particularly fertilizers, were more than offset by the declines, especially for developing countries, in the prices of their export commodities. The terms of trade of developing countries' agricultural products were down by about 10 percent in 1982 and had declined for the fourth year in succession.

41. The Conference generally deplored the persistence of trade protectionism and the effect it had on many countries as regards access of their agricultural products to some major markets. It welcomed the establishment of the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) Committee on Trade in Agriculture which was addressing itself to such problems. It looked forward to its recommendations, which could lead to new initiatives of mutual benefit. It also called on all countries which applied protectionist measures to refrain from doing so and, as soon as possible, to roll back such measures. The need for the adoption of policies supporting an open multilateral trade and payment system was stressed. Some members also recalled Resolution 159 (VI) of UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development).

42. The Conference reiterated the plea of the Eighty-second Session of the FAO Council that food should not be used as a means of exerting political pressure.

43. While noting that the results of UNCTAD VI did not meet all expectations, the Conference noted that support had been reiterated for initiatives in international trade policies, such as the Generalized System of Preferences and the Integrated Programme for Commodities.

44. The Conference expressed concern that the deadline for ratification of the Agreement on the Common Fund for Commodities had passed on 30 September without achieving the support of the minimum number of countries necessary for its activation. The Conference, therefore, urged all signatories of the Agreement to ratify it as soon as possible to expedite its entering into force.

- Flow of Financial Resources to Agriculture and Food Aid

45. The Conference expressed concern that official commitments of external assistance to agriculture had declined in 1982 for the first time, even in current prices. While the adverse effects of the recession and unemployment on the budgetary situation in most developed countries were recognized, the decline in development assistance to agriculture signified a weakening in resolve of the international community to overcome food problems through concerted multilateral action. The Conference urged that donor countries and others in a position to do so substantially increase external assistance to the agriculture sector, for which the estimated element of external assistance needed was $8 300 million growing to $12 500 million by 1990, at 1975 prices. The Conference expressed further concern that the concessional element in this external assistance had gone down. It regretted the delay in payments to the resources of IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development), the decline in UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) resources and the extension of the period of payments to IDA (International Development Association) which have forced them to make considerable cutbacks in their operations, and appealed to donors for an early and adequate replenishment of their resources.

46. The Conference welcomed the new data on disbursements of multilateral external assistance to agriculture. It noted with concern that it took more than eight years on average to disburse the entire amount of each commitment. It was felt that both donor agencies and recipient countries should re-examine and revise their policies and procedures so as to speed implementation of development activities and achieve faster disbursement of external assistance.

47. The Conference expressed interest in the preliminary results of the Organization's study of domestic public expenditures on agriculture by 52 developing countries during 1978-82. It noted that public expenditure on agriculture had tended to increase in 197881, in most regions, but that there had been a setback in 1982. However, agriculture's share of total public expenditures had been maintained. The Conference underlined that many developing countries would have to invest more in agriculture if such expenditure were to be close to agriculture's contribution to overall GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

48. The Conference was informed about the difficulties of compiling adequate and comparable information on such expenditures. Developing countries were encouraged to undertake the necessary data collection and analysis, and it was indicated that FAO would be ready to provide technical assistance within the limits of its resources.

49. It was regretted that food aid commitments in 1982-83, at approximately nine million tons of cereals, had remained below the food aid target of 10 million tons agreed at the World Food Conference, despite relatively low world market prices of cereals. It thus fell far short of the estimate of 20 million tons that provided a useful indicator of requirements of food aid in cereals by 1985. Some donor countries referred to efforts to increase food aid commitments and speed up deliveries, particularly to alleviate the immediate food problems in Africa.

- Situation of Food and Agriculture in Africa

50. The Conference reiterated its concern at the deteriorating food and agricultural situation in Sub-Saharan Africa, where, in addition to a high incidence of natural and manmade emergencies, food production increases had failed to meet rising food demand for more than a decade. The rising level and cost of food imports was consuming an increasing share of the meagre export earnings of the region, yet average dietary energy supplies remained stagnant and below requirements.

51. The Conference stressed that in Sub-Saharan Africa population was growing faster than in other regions and that this factor, along with accelerated urbanization and, in some instances, rising incomes, had led to a serious imbalance of growth in food demand and production. This basic situation had been made worse in some cases by inadequate policies for producer incentives, land use, urban food distribution and rural development generally. Institutions and delivery systems for rural areas were lacking in some cases and were inefficient in others. Veterinary and plant quarantine services were understaffed and under-funded, as was evident in the recent outbreaks of animal diseases and plant pests. There was also a general shortage of qualified personnel. These problems were compounded by the difficulties of the African environment, such as fragile soils and unreliable and erratic rainfall.

52. The Conference agreed that generalized solutions could not be applied to what were extremely complex situations. It called for flexible blends of measures tailored to the situation prevailing in each country. It urged the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to continue to review carefully their food, agricultural and rural development strategy within the context of overall socio-economic objectives. It was seen that groundwork for such a review already had been undertaken in the Lagos Plan of Action and that some thirty countries had already adopted the food strategy approach in this connection. Producer incentives should be adequate and physical and social infrastructure strengthened so as to induce farmers to produce more, as well as reap benefits from their greater outputs. Efforts to reduce the high rates of population growth and of rural-urban migration should be accorded priority in the objectives of rural development.

53. Programmes of agricultural research and training deserved to be given higher priority if appropriate technology for the African situation was to be developed and diffused. Equally high priority should be given to training and education of farmers and of officials at all levels. Priority should also be given to programmes dealing with the building of institutions and the development of delivery systems.

54. The Conference agreed that the African food situation called for concerted and sustained action on the part of the countries concerned and the international community including FAO. It urged that the programme outline approved by the Eighth Session of the Committee on World Food Security be developed further with a view to elaborating a special long-term programme for Africa. The Conference supported the special attention accorded by the Director-General to the current emergency situation and urged that he continue, in cooperation with other food agencies, this action to the benefit of these countries. The Conference urged that Official Development Assistance (ODA) to African countries be substantially stepped up. Means should also be sought to improve the efficiency of development assistance and the modalities of its disbursement.

55. The Conference adopted the following Resolution:

Resolution 1/83



Noting with grave concern that the situation of food and agriculture in most African countries has undergone continuous deterioration over the past two decades, resulting in a decline in food production and consumption per capita and an alarming increase in the number of people exposed to malnutrition, hunger and starvation,

Noting that the population of Africa is increasing and that the present food supply crisis in a number of African countries has been aggravated by such factors as persistent drought, poor rainfall, bush and grass fires and desert encroachment, refugee problems, unusually severe crop infestations, epizootic diseases as well as chronic lack of production inputs,

Recalling the repeated appeals of the Director-General of FAO in favour of the African countries to help them to overcome their critical food shortages and to avoid the gradual decimation of livestock and, in particular, his appeals before the 1983 summer session of ECOSOC and the current session of the General Assembly,

Noting with serious concern the findings of the Special FAO/WFP Task Force established by the Director-General of FAO that the food supply situation has severely deteriorated in as many as 22 African countries and that the maximum efforts are needed, in the next few months for the provision of food aid which should reach, according to recent estimates of the above-mentioned Special Task Force, about one million tons over and above the food aid allocations already made for 1983/84, and agricultural inputs to a value estimated at $76 million required for the rehabilitation of agriculture and animal husbandry,

Recalling the increasing efforts being made by African countries to accelerate the development of their food and agricultural sectors and their expressed will to give food and agriculture a high priority in accordance with the Lagos Plan of Action for the implementation of the Monrovia Strategy for the Economic and Social Development of Africa,

  • 1. Commends the Director-General of FAO for his ceaseless efforts to draw the attention of the international community to the plight of the African countries affected by acute food shortages; and in particular, for his timely initiative in convening special meetings on the critical African food supply situation;

    2. Supports the appeals of the Director-General in favour of the African countries threatened by food shortages and urges the international community to respond generously to these appeals, in particular by urgently providing additional quantities of food aid which, according to recent estimates by the Special FAO/WFP Task Force, should increase to about one million tons over and above allocations already made, and agricultural inputs for the rehabilitation of agriculture and animal husbandry the value of which, according to the estimates of the above sources, should reach $76 million;

    3. Urges the governments of the affected countries to mobilize local resources to the maximum extent possible to meet the current food crisis and to streamline local transport and related arrangements to avoid bottlenecks in the receipt, transportation and distribution of supplies;

    4. Welcomes the food aid and development assistance given by a number of donor countries, international organizations and inter-governmental bodies to African countries and their expressed desire of examining the possibility to increase such aid as called for by the Director-General of FAO;

    5. Stresses the need to intensify efforts to speed up the physical delivery of food aid already pledged in order to reach the needy persons without delay, and to decide without delay, and according to the possibilities, on additional food aid allocations to meet food shortages expected to arise before the next harvests in 1984;

    6. Underlines the need to ensure urgently the rehabilitation of agriculture and animal husbandry in the affected countries, inter alia through the donation of agricultural inputs, such as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, vaccines, farm equipment, animal feed supplies etc.;

    7. Draws attention of all concerned to the need to ensure the internal transport of food and agricultural production supplies in countries faced with serious transport and logistics problems, especially in moving supplies to remote and inaccessible areas;

    8. Invites the Director-General to consider favourably requests for projects to be financed from the FAO Technical Cooperation Programme in order to help the African countries affected by food shortages to redress their productive capacity in the field of agriculture and animal husbandry and strengthen the control of desertification;

    9. Invites the Director-General to keep the situation under close review and to take all appropriate steps to alleviate the suffering of the affected countries and to submit a report on the implementation of this Resolution to the next sessions of the Committee on World Food Security and the FAO Council.

  • (Adopted 22 November 1983)

    - Situation in Other Regions

    56. The Conference welcomed the attention being given to food self-reliance in the Near East, especially in the oil-exporting countries, where rising demands for food were being matched with increased public investment in intensive crop and livestock production projects. Adequate attention should be given to the analysis of benefits of such investment programmes relative to costs of alternative development possibilities. It urged that countries in such situations, especially those with limited public budgets and much underemployment, consider ways to integrate production-intensification efforts with rural development.

    57. The Conference considered that cereal production gains stemming from high-yielding crop varieties and practices associated with the "Green Revolution" might be tapering off in South Asia. The slowdown in growth of fertilizer use provided supporting evidence to this disturbing trend. It urged intensification of efforts to develop and diffuse new food production technologies and integrated crop-and-livestock systems, especially those adapted to hilly, dryland and other less favoured conditions. These should, of course, be compatible with the policies to reduce dependency on imported inputs, to minimize harmful ecological effects, and to harmonize food systems with patterns of farming structure.

    58. The Conference considered that the Latin American economies with their strong international trade links had been hard-hit by the recession, high rates of real interest and alarming rise in the debt service burden. Food imports in the region were also rising rapidly. All this indicated the importance of innovative approaches to strengthen and stabilize the region's agricultural export base, as well as to reduce dependency on imports of basic foods in the recovery programme for this region.

    59. Attention was drawn to the role of transnational corporations in finance, input supply, and production and marketing systems for agricultural commodities. Concern was expressed about some harmful effects of their activities on developing economies. The Conference was informed that collection of accurate information by the Secretariat would be difficult but that the latter would endeavour to prepare a review that would bring together objective information available in relevant UN agencies as well as identify gaps in information.

    60. Some developed countries informed the Conference of their policies towards the agricultural sector. Instances were quoted of upper limits being placed on support prices in the light of excess supplies. Commitment by these major exporting countries to ensure stable supplies of food was reiterated and their willingness to invest in domestic transport infrastructure to support such a commitment was underlined.

    61. The Conference welcomed the focus in the documents on specific regional situations, problems and possible solutions. It was informed that such regional analyses would continue to be undertaken periodically.

    - Policies and Longer-term Issues

    62. The Conference emphasized the importance of balanced national policies which provided farmers with adequate production incentives and incomes, which reduced fluctuations and uncertainties in food supplies and prices, and which at the same time would be fair to consumers. The Conference stressed the importance of formulating these policies in the context of intermediate- and long-term needs, plans and objectives. The Conference emphasized the need for developed countries to take into account the effects of their agricultural and commodity policy actions on developing countries and, in particular, on low-income and food-deficit countries.

    63. The Conference welcomed the ongoing FAO study of agricultural price policies which the Director-General had initiated in early 1983. It was informed that preliminary analyses would be discussed by an Expert Consultation immediately after this Conference session, as well as in the 1984 Regional Conferences. A final report of the study would be presented to the Conference in 1985.

    64. The Conference stressed the importance, especially during this period of economic difficulties, of safeguarding the natural resource base needed for future agricultural production. Particular mention was made of the dangers of desertification, deforestation and poor forest management, soil erosion, poor utilization of irrigation potential and inadequate management of marine, inland fisheries, land and wildlife resources.

    Contents -