In Chapters I and II, information on national rice and grains policies, respectively, that were implemented or announced during the 1999/2000 season are presented in line with the reporting on changes in cereal polices during previous years in the Cereal Policies Review. For Chapters III and IV, this will be the first time that agricultural policy changes in oilcrops and meats are presented in this format, although policy changes have been reported regularly to the respective FAO Intergovernmental Groups in the past. Because there were no previous published reports for these commodities, an extended period from 1998-2000 is covered to provide some background material on major policies for these commodities. Although the format is similar for each chapter, the four commodity chapters are designed to stand on their own. The final chapter combines those policy changes that relate to more than one commodity group.
The policies are presented by type for each commodity chapter, i.e. production, consumption, marketing and stock holding, other domestic programmes with relevance for national commodity sectors, and international trade policies, including bilateral and multilateral trade arrangements. Changes in policies with respect to a country's implementation of its commitments under the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (URAA) are also reported. In general, most changes in national commodity policies during the past three years have focused on international trade and production. There are three basic reasons for this policy focus: a) consumer food subsidies and state marketing and stockholding have been reduced, in part, in response to structural market reforms since the 1980s; b) the advent of the URAA in the mid-1990s further limited government options for direct support to commodities; and c) developments in the international markets in recent years led to growing surpluses and falling international prices for most of the commodities covered in this report.
Therefore, faced with depressed prices and fewer policy options, some governments, mostly among the developing countries, attempted to protect farmers against low prices through border measures, largely by raising tariffs and/or applying non-tariff barriers. Other governments, with sufficient financial resources, chose to protect the incomes of domestic producers by increasing farm supports through direct payments and subsidised inputs. Some of these same governments also increased their support to exports to reduce domestic surpluses.