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Press Release 98/33






Tallinn, 28 May -- Global staple food production is expected to show a small increase in 1997/98, but will decline in low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDC*), the Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Jacques Diouf, said today.

In a statement to the FAO Regional Conference for Europe, Dr. Diouf said a continued effort by the international community is required to improve the food situation in the poorest countries, where more than 800 million people are undernourished.

Ministers and senior government officials from about 40 countries of the European region are discussing food security and agricultural issues during the meeting in Tallinn. One of the main items will be the implementation of the Plan of Action adopted by Heads of State and Government during the World Food Summit in 1996, where 186 countries committed themselves to reducing by half the number of undernourished people by 2015.

"Global staple food production is expected to increase by 0.7 percent in 1997/98, but is forecast to decline by about two percent in the LIFDC," Dr. Diouf said. Development aid has tended to fall since the late 1980s not only in real terms, but also in current prices, hovering in recent years at a nominal $60 billion, he added.

"This has affected the agriculture sector more than other sectors as its share has fallen from about 30 percent in the mid-eighties to barely 12 percent in recent years," Dr. Diouf said.

On agriculture in Europe, the FAO Director-General noted: "Overall gross agricultural production in the region has given signs of steady recovery from the low levels of 1994/95, mainly due to crop production, in particular cereals, while livestock production has not yet shown the expected reversal of declining trend. Another aspect is the moderate but continued agricultural recovery in the Central and Eastern European sub-region."

Dr. Diouf noted that following the World Food Summit, FAO drafted 150 national strategies for agriculture and food security towards the year 2010 for developing countries and countries in transition.

Through its Special Programme for Food Security FAO wants to help the 83 low-income food-deficit countries to increase productivity and food production on an economically and environmentally sustainable basis. By working with farmers to identify and resolve technical, institutional or policy constraints the programme should open the way for improved productivity and broader access to food. The Special Programme for Food Security is now operational in 30 countries, including Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and under formulation in 40 others.

One of FAO's ongoing concerns is to promote investment in agriculture in the region. During the last two years, 13 investment projects prepared by FAO's Investment Center were approved for Central and Eastern European countries with a total value of $411 million, including $278 million in external loans.

FAO's Technical Co-operation Programme provides agricultural policy advice and practical assistance. A total of 49 new projects were implemented in the Central and Eastern European countries in 1996/97.


(*) The 83 LIFDC countries are defined as nations that are poor and net importers of food. Their net income amounts to less than $1,505 per person annually. In many cases, particularly in Africa, these countries cannot produce enough food to meet all their needs and lack sufficient foreign exchange to pay for purchasing food on the international markets.





Related link: FAO Regional Conference for Europe.


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