COMMITTEE ON COMMODITY PROBLEMS
Rome, Italy, 11-13 April 2005
Meetings of Intergovernmental Groups 2003-04:
1. The following intergovernmental group (IGG) sessions were held in the period since the Sixty-fourth Session of the CCP, and the reports of these groups have been tabled for the consideration of the Committee:
2. A major activity common to all the intergovernmental groups was the review of the current market situation, and for some, an assessment of the longer term market prospects. In their analyses, some groups examined market prospects in particular countries or regions, as well as, the development of niche markets for organic and fair traded commodities. Each group reviewed ongoing and proposed commodity development activities financed by the Common Fund for Commodities (CCP 05/16). The improvement in the gathering, particularly of disaggregated data, and the accuracy of statistics was dealt with by some groups and recommendations made on possible modification in the treatment of data, and improvement in data collection. Most groups also considered/endorsed their priorities in developing their Commodity Development Strategies.
3. Trade policy was discussed in some way by most of the groups. Some undertook regular reviews of developments in commodity policy which had taken place since their last session, while some seek to adopt policy guidelines for members. Other groups undertook reviews of particular aspects of trade policy. Associated issues, such as those concerning trade and food security, the impact of new technologies on trade and the impact of sanitary and phytosanitary requirements on trade, were considered.
4. Some IGGs continued to seek innovations in their meeting practices in order to attract broader participation and make their meetings more relevant and more interesting, including the holding of informal consultations or symposia in conjunction with IGG sessions.
5. For the IGG on Citrus Fruit a major decision was made regarding the sharing of phytosanitary data with African producers and to assist them in training and confronting pest and disease problems through cooperation between members in other regions and through regional citrus networks. In the Third Session of the IGG on Bananas and Tropical Fruits, a major study of the policy reforms of the European Union banana regime and the impact of these reforms on longer term production, consumption, and trade was one of the highlights of the session of the Sub-Group on Bananas, while the Sub-Group on Tropical Fruits focussed at length on the socio-economic factors underpinning supply and demand to assist members with a framework for the development of appropriate supply response, and marketing strategies. Major challenges were associated with more efficient management of the field-to-market supply chain for both fresh and processed products in order to assist poorer, rural populations not only in trade but also their nutrition. In international trade of fresh fruit, phytosanitary compliance had been difficult for smaller exporters, because the available alternative to methyl bromide for quarantine treatment for exports had so far been costly.
6. The IGG on Tea examined the extent of which price transmission between export and producer levels impacted producer returns, prompting the Group to address several areas of immediate concern. These included an examination of the impact of trading blocs on tea trade, and the development of new strategies particularly aimed at enhancing consumption, increasing value-added and further reducing production and marketing costs. In addition, the Group launched a new initiative aimed at achieving global harmonization in fixing maximum residue levels (MRLs) in tea, which could constitute a barrier to trade and impose significant costs of compliance on tea exporters.
7. For the joint meeting of the IGGs on Grains and Rice, the Groups noted the sharp drop in carry-over stocks and of the possible negative implications this might have for food security. The Rice Group also agreed to recommend developing countries to stimulate rice production in view of the tightening of global supplies and the effect this might have on world prices in 2004. A conference in celebration of the International Year of Rice followed the joint meeting, which highlighted efforts at the national and international levels to overcome major production constraints and opportunities for increased efficiency and sustainability within the rice-based system. The conference also confronted issues related to the potential of science and new technologies, such as biotechnology, to improve the efficiency of rice production.
8. The IGG on Meat assessed the impact of import surges on the domestic poultry and dairy industries in Tanzania and Senegal caused by a variety of factors, not solely linked to unfair trading practices. In addition, the Group emphasized the importance of the early detection of animal diseases, and early lifting of unnecessary trade restrictions that limit access to international meat markets and cause prolonged market disruptions. The Group acknowledged the usefulness of organizing technical symposia/workshops to provide greater opportunities for experts and delegates to meet and discuss issues of importance to livestock and dairy markets.
9. Similarly, the Eighth Session of the Sub-Group on Hides and Skins was preceded by a one-day informal consultation. The Sub-Group reviewed the linkages between trade and environmental policies in the hides, skins, and leather sector, and determined that further analysis of the impact of environmental regulations on the tanning industry was required. During the one-day informal consultation, the Blueprint for the African Leather Industry: A Development, Investment and Trade Guide for the Leather Industry in Africa, containing recommendations for the improved performance of the African leather industry, was launched.
10. Two joint meetings of the IGG on Hard Fibres and the IGG on Jute, Kenaf and Allied Fibres were held since the last session of the Committee, each in conjunction with an informal consultation on natural fibres. In addition, a one-day intersessional consultation was held in Rome in March 2004. An ongoing concern of these groups has been ways by which the loss of market to synthetic substitutes might be redressed, particularly by seeking the development of new market outlets. Among these, the Groups sought to exploit the considerable potential for the use of natural fibres in composite materials. These Groups valued the opportunity for wide-ranging and informal discussion in consultations which permit the participation of experts from the private sector, and they have continued to economise on meeting time by having their reports prepared subsequently by the Secretariat.