Friday, 7 October 2005
Agenda item 1
The Technical Consultation was held after the completion of the Fourth Focal Points Meeting. The overview and objectives of the Technical Consultation were presented by Dr Frederick Baker, Senior Statistician,FAO RAP.
Agenda item 2
The presentation on estimating the number of undernourished was made by Mr David Dawe, Senior Food Systems Economist of FAO RAP, who emphasized that this presentation borrowed heavily from presentations made at the FAO workshop on the Measurement of Food Deprivation, held in Rome in October 2004. He defined the concept of undernourished by referring to those whose dietary energy consumption is insufficient for body weight maintenance and child growth; work performance.
The FAO methodology for estimating the percentage and number of undernourished relies on data on (a) per capita dietary energy consumption, (b) distribution of food consumption and (c) per capita minimum energy requirement. He added that using lognormal distribution, two parameters were considered - average per capita food consumption and the inequality in distribution. The methodology for estimating per capita dietary energy supply (DES) was also discussed.
Several problems and limitations were identified:
Statistics are not always reliable or available for all commodities. The best statistics are primarily confined to the important food crops. Non-commercial and subsistence production is difficult to measure, but it may be a large part of total production in some countries.
Basic data on the feed, seed and industrial/manufacturing use of crop and livestock products often do not exist. Statistics on feed use are a particular problem.
Accurate measurements of waste during storage and transportation and inside the household are often not available. Other waste information - on quantities intentionally discarded for the purpose of price control or disease control - may be classified.
Import and export data may be accurate in the majority of countries, but in others, significant amounts of trade across borders may remain unrecorded.
Often different time-reference periods are used to report production for different commodities.
A number of issues related to the presentation were raised. These included:
The low FAO numbers on the malnourished. This is how the undernourished will be calculated for the MDGs, as calculating dietary requirements differently would make it more difficult to achieve standardization across countries. FAO is concerned with the distribution of calories as a measure of the undernourished, and not the distribution of income or poverty measures. In the MDGs, other indicators are available and could be used for calculating poverty incidence.
The relationship between the calculation of percent undernourished and the poverty indicators and poverty incidence; and the need to look at not only the average GDP, but also at its distribution.
How to make best use of the calculations. The idea is to set a uniform standard for all countries so that it will be easier to make cross-country comparisons. Establish a universal line to consider different population structures which have quite different calorie needs.
Minimum energy requirements on the poverty line, which differ by country.
More detailed information on the calculations was requested from FAO. Information on poverty measures can be obtained from other organizations like the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank.
In the case of Thailand, FAO data are often perceived to be wrong, not because of the methodology, but because of the data used in the calculations. It was pointed out that this issue was already being addressed at FAO.
A particular problem for Thailand is that its economic growth has been most rapid, but the estimate for the inequality of food distribution dates back to 1990. There is a need to calculate new inequality parameters and enter them into the calculations.
Posting of production data for a year for which they were not submitted (as in the case of Bhutan). In this case the participants were advised to submit their production data regularly, to ensure that each year had the correct postings. FAO should probe countries on how they arrived at the estimates to encourage countries to consistently submit data.
It was recognized that the difficulties in obtaining data in a timely manner would cause delays in data consolidation and analysis. As the lack of data could affect the decision-making process for agriculture, the representative from India revealed that he also estimated figures for regions which failed to submit data on time. In some ways, he had also been using the FAO strategy for data consolidation.
FAO data on food production for different commodities, except for those on the main commodities (rice and wheat) were estimates made in Rome based on data received from the countries. If countries believe that the data are not accurate, they should contact FAO Rome for correction.
There is also a need for FAO to inform the countries of the data before they are made official, as there have been occasions when data have not been consistent with national data. Thailand requested the support of other member countries in requesting FAO to adopt this approach
Agenda item 3
The Focal Point from the Philippines, Mr Romeo Recide, delivered a presentation on agricultural census data and analysis. He reviewed the role of agriculture in the economy, the role of statistical information in the formulation of agricultural policies and programmes and discussed agricultural censuses, citing the differences between agricultural census results and sample survey results. He cited the need for more understanding and support of agricultural censuses.
On account of their sizes, complete enumeration censuses of agriculture used different and less accurate data collection methods than those employed in sample enumeration and intercensal sample surveys. These differences often resulted in significant discrepancies for the same variables and items between the complete censuses and the regular sample surveys, especially in, but not limited to, countries where different agencies were responsible for these undertakings.
He acknowledged that there was lack of financial support for the regular conduct of agricultural censuses; perhaps this is because the uses for current statistics are unappreciated and the role of the results of agricultural censuses in the agricultural information system is not clear.
He discussed the advantages for using each type, and the methodologies as well as tools used in presenting results for the various types of surveys.
Issues arising from the presentation were:
Having fewer details means being at least one level below a national coverage. It was pointed out that data coverage was not synonymous with data items which defined the scope for research. There should more detail in terms of scope and less in terms of coverage.
The ideal number of pages for a census would be from one to four pages; greater length would make the research difficult. It was noted that in the next World Food Census, there has been a move to consider the census operation as a series of census operations, more like dividing the census into smaller components.
There should be a standard definition for a “household” and when it became an agricultural holding. A household has been defined as a group of people sharing the same arrangement for food. However, this definition varies by country.
The reality is that there is difficulty sometimes in reconciling survey and census results, as survey results sometimes do not match census results. The question was posed: Given two results, which would become the official result?
The Focal Point from Nepal pointed out that the speaker was putting more weight on surveys rather than censuses, when in fact the latter are conducted on a larger scale and hence are expected to give better results and information. Mr Recide explained that the bias was simply due to limited resources in his country, which has a census budgetary requirement that is much larger than the allocation; hence there is a need to be “creative”.
The representative from Nepal explained national practices and pointed out that the census process is regarded as an integrated process in which the population census is followed six months later by the agricultural census.
Agenda item 4
The presentation on the analysis of data in national statistics was made by Ms Nanae Yabuki of FAO RAP’s Policy Assistance Branch. The objective of this presentation was to share the policy-maker’s perspective on the kind of data needed for policy work.
The discussion covered the purpose of the data used; data needed for policy work (on agricultural development/poverty reduction); methodologies; suggestions and conclusions. Policy-makers use the data for identification and monitoring of economic and social situations, policy analysis and policy formulation.
Policy analysis systematically evaluates alternative means of achieving economic and social goals and considers existing or prospective policies to improve welfare; it includes a series of activities such as identification of the problem and criteria, identification and evaluation of alternative actions and recommendation of the best policy option.
Policy formulation covers the provision of incentives/disincentives for a particular activity to guide the economy in the planned direction, coordination with other policies and time consistency. It also understands a “gap” between the policy goals and the current situation, identifies priority areas and policy tools, decides the sequence of policy implementation and considers the need for “accompanied policies” or a safety net.
On the data needed for policy work on agricultural development and poverty reduction, the Policy Assistance Branch focuses on net real income (as a proxy for the final earnings or profit) and the rural poor, whose well-being is directly related to poverty reduction and food security. The focus on net real income is on macro, sectoral and household levels. The rural poor population is defined as net buyers of food who spend a large proportion of their income on food, with their wages as their major income source, and who are engaged in agriculture and related activities.
Methodologies used are econometric analysis, statistical analysis, cost-benefit/financial analysis and other tools including cross-country and sectoral comparisons.
Policy-makers need time series data, cross-country/sectoral data with consistent definitions and data conforming with international standards. Also needed are survey data or census data without sample bias.
There is a need to bridge the gap between statistics and policy work. To this end, Ms Yabuki raised issues on designing statistics/surveys according to the needs of the users; policy-makers’ participation in the design/revision of the statistics/survey design; discussion of data definitions between the policy-makers and the statistics sector; and the design of statistics/surveys in line with national economic plans. She concluded that statisticians and policy-makers mutually benefit through better coordination.
The participants reactions to the presentation are listed hereunder:
Most countries depend solely on the national budget for their statistical activities. Exceptions are Iran which has no budget for statistical undertakings; Lao PDR which obtains its funds from the national government and donors; Viet Nam which receives funding from the government and other sources; and Thailand which receives funds from both the national government and JICA. Donors also provide consultants.
It was pointed out that statisticians should ask how the data requested by policy-makers will be used and the degree of accuracy that is required, as well as the level of data that is needed.
Producers of information should have guidance from policy-makers including the manner in which the data will be used.
On correlations and regressions, data sets (that could be used by the policy-makers) should be provided to enable the generation of the kind of information needed to carry out policies.
The issue of confidentiality of data was raised as well as the integrity of statisticians. In some cases, the policy-makers may decide not to use results and instead implement policies without supporting data.
Lack of time was noted in some cases to revise the sample design prior to a survey. It was acknowledged that there is a need to revise the design every year as improvements are identified.
Agenda item 4, con’td
The representative from Thailand presented his paper on agricultural statistics’ data analysis for decision-making in Thailand. While legally the Office of Agricultural Economics is responsible for agricultural statistics, in reality the system is decentralized, with each agency having its own statistical unit.
The current statistical activities included annual production surveys (for crops, livestock and fisheries); yield surveys covering eight commodities; socio-economic surveys (every two years); production cost surveys (annually and covering 18 commodities); regular price reports; and area surveys using remote sensing, GIS and GPS.
Thailand also has an agricultural commodity registration system and makes forecasts at least twice a year for 60 commodities. Information is disseminated through the Web site (http://www.oae.go.th), a reporting system, via a service centre and publications.
Agricultural data are used as guidelines for decision-making, in development planning and for policy formulation, as well as for forecasting, monitoring and evaluation, and publication. The data required for policy formulation are domestic consumption, production areas, export markets, prices and production costs.
Data analysis includes the comparison of prices and costs for the determination of necessary measurements, distribution of production to consumers, determination of the amounts of imports and exports and the amounts for processing. Examples cited were the comparison of prices and costs of pineapple for processing, maize for animal feed, Jasmine rice, longan and durian, all of which are important national export commodities.
Agenda item 4, continued
In relation to statistical surveys on agriculture, forestry and fisheries and changes in organizations, the following points were discussed: (a) the establishment, upgrading and expansion of statistics organizations under the direct jurisdiction of MAAF; and (b) the development of statistics on agriculture, forestry and fisheries since the high economic growth period. A historical review of the establishment of MAAF at the end of the Second World War, and its statistical activities which were intended to help in overcoming the food shortage and establishing a food supply and demand plan, was presented.
The upgrading and expansion of agricultural statistical surveys covered the completion of the postwar democratization policy (including agricultural land reform), improvement in food supply and demand, start of farm household economic surveys and production costs, and the implementation of the 1950 World Census of Agriculture and Forestry.
In the context of development of statistics on agriculture, forestry and fisheries since the start of the high economic growth period, needs for statistical surveys on agriculture diversified, there was significant progress in online statistical information processing and new policies were developed — MAAF responded through enhanced efficiency of statistical information work.
Since the establishment of the basic law on food, agriculture and rural areas in 1999, there is a need to develop the management of statistical information to respond to the new framework of agriculture, forestry and fisheries. The review of statistical information on agricultural, forestry and fisheries has been ongoing since 2001, and one result is the separation of information-related organizations.
The key points in the basic plan include the basic policy on measures related to food, agriculture and rural areas, great concern over food safety and wholesome diets, more diversified demands, delays in structural reforms in agriculture (for instance, the decrease in the number of farmers as a result of ageing and delays in scale expansion), expectations of multi-functionality and rural areas and advances in globalization.
A new plan will be based on the following components: (a) building a policy system that is effective, efficient and easy to understand; (b) incorporating consumers’ concerns into policies; (c) encouraging farmers and local inhabitants to assert independence and creative ideas; (d) developing measures that focus on environmental conservation; and (e) development of aggressive agricultural policies based on new movements in agriculture and rural areas.
The targets for food self-sufficiency and data analysis covering the trends of food self-sufficiency on a calorie basis, the characteristics of Japan’s food self-sufficiency activities, production targets and graphical cases of data analysis for the basic plan were also discussed.
Agenda item 5
The Senior Statistician noted that the trends in agriculture should be analysed, as the roles of agriculture and GDP were changing, but the way data were collected remained static.
He complimented the speakers on their charts and graphs which gave an informative visual overview of the situations in different countries for effective communication to policy-makers.
There is a need for the statisticians to coordinate regularly with policy-makers to discuss the use of data and the time lines for the generation of such data because policy-makers require information at specified time intervals. The importance of clarity and exactitude to minimize mismatches and information gaps was emphasized.
In closing the Technical Consultation, the Senior Statistician cited the importance of the contributions of the Focal Points to food security and poverty reduction.
Being his last official meeting with the Focal Points, he indicated his appreciation of their cooperation with FAO during the period of his assignment, and his hopes for improved developments in the areas of concern in statistical analysis for food security.
The Consultation was adjourned at 16.30.