7. The Council reviewed the current world food situation and prospects for 1975/76 on the basis of a report by the Director-General. It noted that this report had been transmitted to the Executive Director of the World Food Council in order that it could be circulated in time for the First Session of the World Food Council.
8. The Council felt that the report provided a balanced and objective assessment, and was mainly descriptive. The Council recognized that the role of FAO in relation to food production problems raised would be considered by the Council under other agenda items.
9. The Council welcomed a number of improvements in the world food situation since the World Food Conference, although it noted there was no room for complacency. Many short-term problems were still unresolved and the medium-term outlook was as difficult as ever. The world's basic food supplies remained fundamentally insecure. Some rebuilding of cereal stocks seemed likely in 1975/76 but to levels still below the minimum for world food security.
10. There were prospects for a substantial rise of nearly 80 million tons in grain production in 1975 provided the weather continued fair. However, the outlook for wheat and coarse grain production in many developing countries in 1975 was mixed, so that the outcome of the main Asian rice crop, yet to be sown and subject to the uncertainties of the monsoon, remained crucial. FAO estimated that 1975 world output of wheat and coarse grains could be about 8 percent higher than in 1974 or about 3 percent more than the last good harvest in 1973. Most of the increase was expected in the developed countries, particularly the United States of America, the U.S.S.R. and Canada. Western European grain output was likely to decline slightly but satisfactory crops were forecast in eastern Europe. Grain sowing in Argentina and Australia had only just been completed. The expectations for wheat production were confirmed by the observer for the International Wheat Council (IWC). In a statement to the Council the Executive Secretary of the IWC also confirmed that carry-over stocks of wheat of the five main exporting countries would be about 25.5 million tons by the close of their respective 1974/75 crop seasons, or 0.5 million tons less than the previous year. These were only minimum working stocks which contained no reserve elements. Some mis-interpretation was possible, however, of the figure given for carry-over stocks, as these did not relate to any one particular point of time but covered a period of five months from 30 June to 30 November. In the current crop year ending 30 June 1975 stocks of wheat in those five exporting countries would not fall below 37.6 million tons, and would in fact show a small increase over last year's level. The Council expressed its appreciation of the statement made by the Executive Secretary of the IWC, and noted that FAO was working with the IWC to arrive at an improved indicator of the cereal stocks position.
11. The Council noted that the Director-General's report was on this occasion mainly concerned with grains, as these crops were now approaching harvesting in several major areas, and that it gave little attention to rice and non-cereal foods, particularly foodstuffs which were not traded internationally to any marked extent. It suggested that future secretariat reports should return to their former wider coverage of food and agricultural production. It was desirable to have more complete indications of national food requirements including nutritional needs. In this connexion the Council was informed of the secretariat's proposals for developing a nutritional surveillance system in cooperation with WHO.
1 CL 66/23-Rev.1, CL 66/PV/2, CL 66/PV/19.
12. The Council noted that the balance of payments situation in most developing countries threatened to deteriorate further in 1975/76 due to the fall in world commodity prices which had reduced export earnings. As a result there would be a further substantial increase in the current account deficits of the most seriously affected (MSA) countries. The Council agreed that they would require continued and increased international assistance to pay for grain and fertilizer import requirements, which were expected to remain high. For the July/ December 1975 period FAO forecast that approximately 6–7 million tons of foodgrain imports, valued at a revised figure of about $900 million at prices and freight rates as of early June, would be required by the original 33 MSA countries. Fertilizer prices had recently declined from their unprecedented levels but were still high, as compared to 1972/73 prices. The pesticides situation had also improved against earlier forecasts of acute shortage, primarily due to the sharp and unforeseen depression in the textile industry which had reduced the demand for and production of cotton, which accounted for half the world's insecticide consumption. Some members emphasized the need for caution on the part of FAO in the presentation of forecasts in situations of rapid change as at present.
13. The Council was encouraged to note that food aid for 1975/76 was projected at almost 9 million tons of cereals, 50 percent higher than in the previous year and almost three times the level of 1973/74. Nevertheless, the level of 10 million tons of cereals for 1975/76 which the World Food Conference had accepted as a minimum target for food aid had not yet been reached.
14. Another positive factor was the strong support for the establishment of an International Fund for Agricultural Development expressed by interested governments at a meeting convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Geneva in May 1975. In welcoming this development many members stressed the need to maintain the momentum for quick and decisive action on this major initiative.
15. In the light of its assessment of the world food situation and outlook the Council considered that three issues required the immediate attention of governments in 1975/76: (a) safeguarding the MSA countries to ensure that they were able to meet their essential import requirements of grains, fertilizers and pesticides; (b) the replenishment of world cereal stocks in a coordinated way in line with the International Undertaking on World Food Security; and (c) expanding food production in both developed and developing countries.
16. In this connexion the Council endorsed the Director-General's view that the World Food Council should, as a matter of top priority, take up the question of arrangements to carry on the essential role performed in 1974 by the United Nations Emergency Operation (UNEO) terminated at the end of May 1975.
17. The Council agreed that this summary of its comments on the Director-General's report should be transmitted to the World Food Council for attention.