PR 97/59

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Press Release 97/59


ROME, November 5 -- The Conference of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) begins its 29th session on Friday, 7 November as first estimates of world crop and livestock production in 1997 point to an increase of only 1.1 percent after 1996 showed an rise of 3.6 percent over 1995.
The biennial FAO Conference brings together Agriculture Ministers and senior officials from FAO’s 175 Members. They will decide FAO’s Programme of Work and Budget for the next two years, examine the global state of food and agriculture and receive the annual report on The State of Food and Agriculture 1997. The Conference will also review follow-up activities to the 1996 World Food Summit, and discuss various issues related to sustainable agricultural development.
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf will open the Conference Friday when the meeting elects its Chairman and Vice-Chairmen and votes on Kazakstan’s application for membership of FAO as well as awarding three FAO prizes: the A.H. Boerma Award for journalists, the B.R. Sen Award for outstanding field experts, and the Edouard Saouma Award for field projects
On November 11, President Omar Bongo of Gabon will deliver the 20th McDougall Lecture, instituted to commemorate the late F.L. McDougall, who played a leading role in the foundation of FAO.
In his introduction to the proposed Programme of Work and Budget, Dr. Diouf writes: “The next biennium should see FAO being fully active, together with a broad range of partners, in assisting Member Nations in the achievement of the World Food Summit commitments. Summit follow-up and the goal of sustainable food security for all were clearly among the prime movers in the design of the Programme of Work for 1998-99.”
The State of Food and Agriculture 1997, an annual report detailing global developments in food and agriculture issues, will be released during the Conference with a special chapter on the Agroprocessing Industry and Economic Development.
A supplementary document to be issued during the Conference gives FAO’s latest revised estimates for total crop and livestock production. The current estimates now point to an increase in total production at the global level of 3.6 percent in 1996 over 1995, up from an earlier estimate of 2.6 percent.
FAO’s tentative first estimates for production in 1997 put the expansion in global agricultural production in 1997 at only 1.1 percent, a significant slowdown in production growth compared to the relatively buoyant 1996 performance in both the developed and developing countries.
At the same time, the latest information on food aid in 1996/97 shows a sharp drop of 37 percent to 4.9 million tons, the lowest level since the start of food aid programmes in the mid-1950s, while official development assistance to agriculture continued to decline for the 11th year according to FAO’s figures.
As well as examining the state of food and agriculture in the world, the Conference will examine FAO’s Programme of Work and Budget for the years 1998 and 1999 submitted by the Director-General. It outlines two funding levels. A zero real growth proposal of $675.3 million and a zero nominal growth budget of $650 million, which would result in program cuts to offset increased costs.
FAO has made efforts to protect, as much as possible, the priority areas in its programme which include:
The International Plant Protection Convention
The Code of Conduct for Pesticides
The Codex Alimentarius
Conservation and management of genetic resources
Responsible fisheries
Forest resources assessment
Adjustment to the post-Uruguay Round international trade regime
The Special Programme for Food Security;
Early warning and emergency response programmess, including the Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES), and
Women and Population Programmes.
Dr. Diouf said that efficiency savings would be continuing within the Organization, but he warned: “There is a limit to the extent and speed of progress that can be made following the major reduction exercise still under way in the current biennium.”
The Conference will be preceded and followed by sessions of the FAO Council, the Organization’s interim governing body.


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