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The State of Food and Agriculture, 19721

9. The Council discussed the world food and agricultural situation on the basis of the Director-General's preliminary report on The State of Food and Agriculture 1972 1 (SOFA) distributed to Governments in August 1972. A final version, including provisional production information for 1972 and two special chapters, was made available to participants during the session.

10. The Council expressed grave concern over the trend in agricultural production manifested in developing countries during the first two years of the Second Development Decade. Against a target increase of 4 percent per year, production had grown by only 1 to 2 percent during 1971, and it appeared that there would be no acceleration in 1972. In the Far East, the situation was considered particularly precarious as production appeared to have actually fallen by anything up to 1 percent in 1972. Some of the countries of the region had begun to draw on reserve stocks, and next year's harvests would largely determine whether a new food crisis would emerge. One member noted that this slow growth in production posed serious problems in developing countries where changes in income distribution were being effected, and where the resulting growth in demand was likely to exceed the rise in food production; the possibility should therefore be examined of establishing an International Food Fund to help developing countries faced with this situation. However, it was pointed out that long-term improvement in agriculture and food production must be based mainly on the efforts of Member Nations themselves to mobilize national human and material resources for that purpose.

11. It was noted that production in many developing countries continued to be particularly vulnerable to adverse weather conditions, and in the Far East where the Green Revolution had so far had its widest success many areas were being cultivated without sufficient or assured sources of water, and output was affected by erratic trends in rainfall. Therefore FAO was urged to continue its work to assist research and programmes devised for improving cultivation in rainfed areas, and to investigate, in cooperation with other interested organizations, the possibility of establishing weather warning-systems in monsoon areas.

12. The Council noted that the use of high-yielding varieties alone could not be considered the solution for meeting the production problems of developing countries. It was noted that in many countries the effects of expanded use of improved varieties was proportionately lower than in the past, in part owing to the cultivation of less favourable areas, but also because of falling yields due to cross-breeding with unimproved strains. It was important not only to maintain a continuing supply of seed material to farmers, but also to ensure the availability of fertilizers and the financial facilities as well as agricultural extension services to encourage the proper and widespread use of high-yielding varieties. Price incentives and the growth of markets were also essential for expanding production. It was stressed that plans to expand output should be considered along with the need for diversification in certain circumstances.

13. The final version of the report contained two special chapters on “Education and training for development” and “Accelerating agricultural research in the developing countries”. The need to adapt education to the requirements and resources of individual countries stressed in the report was supported by the Council, which recommended that FAO give adequate recognition to rural educational systems in its country perspective studies. On research the Council stressed the need for more practical and well defined goals, as well as better coordination of international research and in assigning priorities at both national and international levels. The Council also noted the importance of promoting employment in rural areas.

1 CL 59/8, CL 59/8 - Corr. 1 (English only), CL 59/PV/2, CL 59/PV/3 and CL 59/PV/20

14. While the Council felt the report was useful and agreed with some of its findings, it made a number of suggestions for future improvements. It hoped that FAO's international agricultural adjustment studies under preparation would provide perspectives for greater policy focus in SOFA beyond that suggested by the target growth rates for the DD2 strategy. Regarding the food and nutrition situation, the Council welcomed the more profound analyses which would be available as a result of the work for the 1974 World Population Conference. The Council hoped that the analysis of the situation in Eastern Europe and the U.S.S.R. could be deepened and that increased information would also be available for China. A number of other suggestions regarding the statistical data included in the report and its presentation were also made. Certain members recommended prudence in regard to the conclusions to be drawn from the data, whose provisional nature was stressed in the report. Projections and forecasts should not be confused. The Council recommended that, in view of the need for up-to-date reviews of the world food and agriculture situation on the one hand and the requirements of policy analysis on the other, the Director-General investigate the possibility of issuing periodic situation reports while concentrating on analysis of trends and policies in a separate report issued annually.

Commodity and Trade Problems: Report of the Forty-Seventh Session of the Committee on Commodity Problems1

15. The Report of the Forty-Seventh Session of the Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP) was presented by the Chairman of the Committee. The Council noted the Report, expressed its satisfaction with the work of the Committee and of its subsidiary bodies, and appreciated the work of the Secretariat in servicing them.

16. The Council shared the Committee's concern that world agricultural trade in 1971 showed only a small improvement compared with the previous year, that the share of agricultural exports in total world merchandise trade continued to decline and that such gains in trade as were made by these exports in the course of 1971 were unevenly distributed between exporting countries, the percentage share of developing countries in world commodity exports having decreased, whereas that of developed countries had increased.

17. The Council also noted with particular concern that agricultural export earnings of developing countries suffered a decline in 1971. The Council felt that, unless the recent production and export performance of the developing countries was radically improved upon, the objectives of the DD2 might be jeopardized. A suggestion was made in this connection that FAO should work out the implications of these objectives for the agricultural sector and continuously appraise progress toward them so that timely corrective action might be taken if needed.

18. The Council recommended that the CCP examine more deeply the basic policy issues underlying commodity trade and prospects. With its experience and technical expertise, the Committee could play an important role in devising solutions to such issues. The Council re-emphasized the Conference's request for a more action-oriented approach by the Committee to commodity problems. In this connexion, the need for an index of CCP recommendations was pointed out.

19. The Council noted the opinion of the CCP that the “FAO Commodity Review and Outlook” should contain concrete suggestions for possible policy changes or for international action to resolve commodity problems. It also recognized that this would make it possible for the CCP to undertake action oriented activities.

20. It was noted that the Committee had carried out a preliminary evaluation of the activities of its subsidiary bodies in line with the Conference directive. The Council agreed with the Committee that these activities deserved a high priority. At the same time, it felt that the effectiveness of the work of the intergovernmental commodity groups could be strengthened, if Member Governments directed their attention more specifically to the main policy issues confronting commodities concerned and suggested remedies. It was pointed out that the freq frequency of the groups' sessions might be re-examined as well as the possibility of concentrating their agenda on fewer issues of particular importance. The Council requested the Committee to continue its detailed examination of the groups' activities at its next session, with a view to eliminating those whose existence was not justified.

1 CL 59/28, CL 59/PV/11 and CL 59/PV/20

21. The Council took note of the wide-ranging discussion in the Committee of the proposed plan of work on international agricultural adjustment. It was stressed that, as agreed by the Conference, the main objective of international adjustment should be the adoption of measures to meet the special requirements of the developing countries and in particular to increase their share in world agricultural trade. The Council also emphasized that social, environmental and food policy aspects of adjustment should be given their due weight in the study. It was considered essential that the documentation on the subject should be completed in ample time for study by governments before the Conference.

22. The Council fully endorsed the Committee's view that FAO had an important contribution to make to the forthcoming multilateral trade negotiations in the framework of the GATT and to the intensive commodity consultations envisaged under UNCTAD Resolution 83 (III), and approved the Committee's proposals for collaboration both at the Secretariat and intergovernmental levels. It was agreed in particular that the existing intergovernmental groups should be used to the maximum for the forthcoming commodity consultations under Resolution 83 (III) in order that their experience might be fully utilized and unnecessary duplication avoided.

23. In this connection, the Council requested the Director-General to place before the UNCTAD Committee on Commodities, which would decide at its coming session on the commodities which would be the subject of intensive consultations under Resolution 83 (III), a brief, clear and concrete document indicating for each commodity covered by the CCP's intergovernmental groups, the type of problems dealt with by the groups, with particular reference to market access and pricing policy, and the results obtained, in order to bring out the relevance of their work to the purposes of the Resolution. This document should indicate the practical way in which FAO could provide the cooperation requested in Resolution 83 (III). It also urged Member Governments of both UNCTAD and FAO to coordinate the positions adopted by their delegations in these bodies.

24. The Council emphasized the importance of FAO's work on agricultural commodities and endorsed the Committee's request to the Director-General to allocate the additional resources necessary for FAO's effective collaboration in the commodity consultations visualized under UNCTAD Resolution 83 (III) and in the multilateral trade negotiations proposed under GATT. The Council noted with appreciation the Director-General's statement that FAO would strengthen its representation at the GATT and UNCTAD secretariats with a view to increased participation by FAO in preparation for the consultations and negotiations.

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