Mr. Chairman, Honourable Delegates and Observers,
It is once again my privilege and my pleasure to address the Council.
As usual, I should like to begin my opening statement to this mid-biennium session of the Council with a brief review of the world food situation.
World Food Situation
The stark fact is that far from improving over the last year, the world food situation has become even worse. It has deteriorated to such an extent that we are faced next year with a truly alarming position in Africa and the threat of another world food crisis.
How have we reached this point? The reasons for this very grave situation are numerous and complex, but can be illustrated by a few striking figures.
Population growth continues to outstrip food production. There are 80 million more mouths in the world to feed this year. There will be 2 billion more by the turn of the century, most of them concentrated in the poor countries.
As though that were not sufficient, nature and man himself are ceaselessly provoking vast disasters. There are today about 9 million refugees in the world. In Somalia alone, about 1.5 million refugees have been added to a population of only 4 million. And can we ignore the tragedies occurring in Southeast Asia , in Kampuchea and on its borders, and in Viet Nam?
Mr. Chairman, may I be allowed a brief digression here to mention the operations for aid to Kampuchea and FAO’s participation in them.
We have dispatched, by all possible land, river and air routes, about 30 000 tons of rice seed and sizable quantities of fertilizers and other agricultural inputs for a total value of about $30 million, thanks to voluntary and generous contributions from a number of countries.
Mr. Chairman, this is the first operation undertaken by FAO on such a scale. As a result, food aid requirements could be sharply reduced this year thanks to the relaunching of the agricultural sector and fresh water fishery.
An evaluation mission which recently returned from Kampuchea considers that in 1981 grain requirements can be estimated at only 75 000 tons, as a minimum, whereas in 1980 food aid requirements came to 280 000 tons. This gives some idea of the results obtained through that campaign for the rehabilitation of Kampuchea ’s agriculture.
The donor countries, during their meeting on 19 November at the United Nations, New York , expressed high appreciation of FAO’s action in Kampuchea.
According to the estimates world cereal production, which had already fallen off last year, will decrease still further in 1980-81; it will probably be 48 million tons below that of two years ago. The food gap in many countries is widening. Twenty-six countries in Africa are now facing reduced harvests while the average African already has 10 percent less to eat than a decade ago. Thus we can speak of a veritable African food crisis which will not be solved overnight.
World cereal stocks are forecast to decline in 1980-81 below the minimum level necessary to ensure World Food Security; that minimum is about 17-18 percent of consumption; we can probably expect only 14 percent in 1980-81.
Recently I read the report of a meeting in sAustralia of the major cereal exporting countries. They believe that this level may even drop to 12 percent. Their estimates agree with ours. If in 1980-81 the commercial stock level falls to 12 percent of world consumption we shall undergo the same food crisis situation as in 1972-73. Therefore in the event of a grave production deficit in 1981-82 the margin will be insufficient.
Low stocks and bad harvests have already produced an upsurge in prices. The f.o.b. wheat export prices are quoted as reaching $220 per metric ton in some cases. If the situation continues to worsen, they will go much higher by next summer. Freight rates have already risen and are now more than 2 times what they were five years ago. Moreover production input prices, especially that of fertilizers, have increased by about 30 percent in one year. A year ago, a ton of urea cost $170. It now costs $230. This is an enormous burden for countries already struggling with the constantly increasing cost of oil imports.
The foreign debt of the developing countries has risen to such proportions that up to 20 percent of their export earnings are being used already for annual debt-service alone. These export earnings come mainly from primary agricultural commodities, which have been subjected to unfavourable terms of trade. Some products sell for barely more than five years ago.
Notwithstanding this situation, concessional aid and food aid, whether for emergencies or not, have not reached the targets set, and the value of cash contributions has been eroded by inflation
Mr. Chairman I may be accused in some quarters of being pessimistic. I will not, however, be deterred by glib and superficial criticism. The fact is that everything will depend on the 1981 production. If a world disaster is to be prevented in 1981-82, we must hold all the winning cards: the farmers will have to plant as much as possible; weather conditions must be favourable and harvests good; freight rate and transport bottlenecks will have to be absorbed; lastly, we must have adequate financing.
The Global Alert
So there is substantial cause for anxiety. That is why for the past year I have continuously sounded the alarm wherever I have had an opportunity to speak, whether it was before the competent bodies of FAO and the Regional Conferences or at OAU Summit Meetings.
Nor have I failed, Mr. Chairman, to alert the United Nations Economic and Social Council, the General Assembly, the Commission on Development and Cooperation of the European Parliament, and various meetings of donors, since therein lies the crucial problem the countries of the world must now face.
As you know, I have also addressed to Member Nations a number of messages and appeals calling for an adequate response, the most recent being in Vienna on 10 November. Mr. Chairman, if I took advantage of my trip to Austria to launch that appeal it was not only because the time seemed appropriate, but also because the Austrian Government has always been particularly sensitive to the problems of the Third World to which it gives generous assistance, because it knows the importance of aid to food and agricultural development, and also because of the initiatives recently taken in Vienna to unblock global negotiations.
Insufficient Attention to Agriculture
Needless to say, Mr. Chairman, my concern has not been confined only to approaching the donor countries.
Each time I have spoken, publicly or privately, to the representatives of developing countries, I have not hesitated to stress their own responsibility: if their situation is so grave it is partly because they themselves have failed to do what is necessary.
How often have we repeated that food, agricultural and rural development does not receive due priority in their budgets and plans, and that their farmers are not encouraged sufficiently to increase and market their produce?
How often have we recalled the danger of depending more and more on imports and food aid which introduce in the country types of cereals not produced locally?
At the Special Session of the General Assembly, I went so far as to say that the developing countries, overwhelmed by hunger and malnutrition, apparently fear the cure even more than the disease!
- Proposals for Food Security
It is not enough to call for reports, to talk, to criticize. FAO is also engaged energetically in helping the countries to overcome this situation.
Mr. Chairman, since the time of the last Council we have taken a number of important initiatives. As a follow-up to the Five Point Plan for World Food Security, I proposed that the International Emergency Food Reserve be confirmed by an instrument having binding validity. In that way we could count on a steady and, we may hope, progressively increasing supply of resources. This question was discussed recently by the Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes whose report is before you.
I proposed and have continued to insist that the IMF establish a food financing mechanism. I am glad to say that the Interim Committee of the Board of Governors of the DIF has now recognized the grave problems faced by low income countries in paying for their food imports, and has asked its Executive Board to give prompt consideration to the FAO proposal for a food financing facility. I am maintaining close contact with the IMP Managing Director, Mr. de Larosière, on this matter.
At my request the Committee on Food Security is examining ways to better avert acute and large- scale food shortages. The ad hoc working party set up by the Committee on World Food Security has recently carried out a technical examination of the major problems involved, both at national and international levels. It has formulated detailed recommendations aimed at specific objectives: improvement of arrangements for consultation and coordination; enabling the countries to respond better; strengthening the data base; and in general making the international community more able to overcome the acute and large-scale food shortages that may occur.
I look forward impatiently to the examination of these findings by the Committee on World Food Security at its Sixth Session in Rome next Spring.
FAO has energetically - not unsuccessfully, I may say - pressed not only for full and proper recognition of food production, food aid and other relevant issues in the International Development Strategy, but also for special attention to these issues in the Agenda of the General Assembly and other forums where efforts are being made to unblock the Global Negotiations.
Mobilization of Resources
In addition to my visits to developing countries in connection with the Regional Conferences or for other reasons, I have also tried to find new sources of bilateral and multilateral assistance.
Thus, in recent months I have visited Austria, Finland, Greece - which was the hospitable, generous and effective host of the Regional Conference for Europe - Hungary and The Netherlands.
On 19 September, I also called an informal meeting here at Headquarters of all interested donor countries to examine the emergency food supply situation in the African countries. This meeting was attended by the representatives of 28 countries. The participants supported and endorsed the six proposals which I put forward for concerted and coordinated action.
Mr. Chairman, I am glad to say that all these activities have led to tangible results; the pledges of aid in food or cash have been met for the most part and higher priority has been granted in the assistance programmes to the needs of Africa .
At the meeting on 19 September, eleven countries and the Common Market gave reports indicating the level of their food aid from which contributions would or could be made to assist African countries. Others announced specific contributions in food aid or other forms of assistance. Frankly, it is not possible yet to give exact figures for all the pledges nor to state that in all cases they are really additional contributions. However since the meeting the figures cited for aid to some of the 26 countries whose situation is the most disturbing seem to represent a total of approximately 807 000 tons of grain and $13.5 million in cash to finance purchases of food products, transport and seed delivery costs.
Several countries indicated that they would announce further contributions for Africa in due course. We may mention in particular that our host country, Italy , plans to pay in a very large sum which would be used mainly to eliminate bottlenecks in transport of food products in the African countries.
I have the honour to announce that at the meeting of 19 September, His Excellency, President Sandro Pertini, agreed to visit our Organization on 3 December of this year.
At that time the President, who will be accompanied by several members of the Government, will officially hand over the new Building D to FAO. The commemorative session for the celebration of the thirty-fifth anniversary of FAO will take place in the Plenary Hall.
All representatives of Member Nations are invited to participate in this ceremony.
We have also received from some of the countries I visited several additional contributions or pledges intended mainly to provide follow-up to the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and to further strengthen the International Emergency Food Reserve.
This increase and diversification of contributions to the International Emergency Reserve Fund give us cause to rejoice. No less than 8 countries have recently pledged or are about to pledge additional contributions for a total of $4.4 million.
Some of the new contributions come from developing countries; I am highly gratified by this especially as some of them are for very substantial amounts. For example, the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya has given $1 million for food aid to Africa . A number of OPEC countries are contributing to the regular resources of the World Food Programme, particularly Saudi Arabia , whose large cash contribution is of capital importance to the WFP. However, apart from these contributions, I particularly wish to mention the considerable contribution of Algeria to the International Emergency Food Reserve since this is the first time an OPEC country has contributed to that Reserve.
Yet considering that these are still not complementary resources, that inflation reduces their value and that Africa ’s needs are enormous, we are forced to recognize that the global response remains far from adequate. The targets have still not been reached either for the International Emergency Food Reserve, or for the food aid to developments supplied by the WFP, or for food aid in general.
In these conditions I shall certainly not relax my efforts.
At the same time, I am glad to announce to you that the Secretary of the OAU, Mr. Kodjo, will visit FAO to discuss with us ways to combine our efforts for increased aid to Africa . He will address the Council tomorrow morning.
Role of FAO
For all these reasons I have had to pass a large part of this year away from Headquarters. My mandate required it and the circumstances compelled me to take all appropriate, practical and effective measures to mobilize increasing resources for use in concrete action and to obtain tangible results on the ground.
After all, is not FAO the only specialized intergovernmental organization in the field of food, agricultural and rural development which, backed by the support of almost all the nations of the world, can speak for and give all of them advice, information, policy guidelines and material assistance, especially to the developing countries who need it so much?
Judging by the reactions of Heads of State, Ministers and senior officials with whom I am in contact constantly in their countries and in Rome , the efficiency, speediness and impact of the action conducted by FAO to respond to the requests from countries for assistance are highly appreciated by those who are in the best position to judge it.
Of course, we could do even better and I am firmly resolved that we should In preparing the next programme of work and budget I shall make every effort to use our present budget package more efficiently for the task considered by the Member Nations as deserving the highest priority.
Nonetheless, we need and absolutely must have more backing in certain sectors and additional resources for new priority projects.
Strategy and Plans
That is an essential condition if we are to be able to fulfil our potential of concrete aid so as to implement the global strategy in the food and agriculture sector which is an intrinsic part of the International Development Strategy.
Furthermore there are many activities we could not abandon without having provided appropriate follow-up, such as the world and regional studies on “Agriculture: Toward 2000”; planning missions sent to countries to assure the follow-up of WCARRD; our participation in UNDP country planning; joint UNDP/FAO missions in the countries; joint activities with the Organization for African Unity, and missions under the Cooperative Programme with the World Bank. Incidentally we must also give our assistance to a major analysis of the strategy for Africa south of the Sahara currently being conducted by the World Bank.
In referring to plans for Africa , I’ cannot fail to mention the Plan of Action for the Implementation of the Monrovia Strategy for the Economic Development of Africa.
Apart from the meeting on 19 September, I have paid no less than 7 visits to Africa in the last few months, and I have attended 3 Summit Meetings of Heads of State and Ministers, the first being the Comité Permanent Inter-Etats de Lutte contre la Sécheresse dans le Sahel (Permanent Interstate Committee on Drought Control in the Sahel-(CILSS)), the second being the Special OAU Economic Summit Meeting, and the third, the Summit meeting of OAU Heads of State held in Lagos, from which the Lagos Plan of Action emerged.
In regard to food and agriculture the Lagos Plan is based on the Africa Food Plan which we had prepared earlier in collaboration with the OAU and the ECA.
Since then we have intensively pursued our preparations for assisting the countries to execute this plan. Besides the missions in the countries which we plan to organize jointly with the UNDP, we are preparing, in collaboration with the OAU, joint proposals for the implementation of the Lagos Plan to be submitted to the Council of Ministers of the OAU to be held next February.
We are also participating, at the request of certain countries, in the formulation of food strategies. Of course the idea of food strategy is not new. There are many examples of it throughout FAO’s history since its earliest efforts up to the Country Perspective Studies, Nutrition Master Plans and the more practical initiatives undertaken recently. We shall also continue to participate, when we are asked, with the interested governments which will request it, in the formulation of food strategies provided, of course, that this work meets an unsatisfied demand, does not create duplication, does not give rise to controversy and is not regarded as a sine qua non condition of aid but, on the contrary, that it manifestly and effectively helps to increase the flow of resources.
In the preparation of the Summary Programme of Work and Budget for 1982-83 on which I am about to embark I intend to give high priority to the needs of the African countries as well as those of other regions which have been particularly indicated by the Regional Conferences. Those Conferences, I am glad to say, once again attracted many ministers. The Regional Conference for Africa which was held in Lomé was attended by more than 26 Ministers of Agriculture.
Regular Programme Resources
This brings me, Mr. Chairman, to the question of Regular Programme resources. Two years ago the uncertainty that already prevailed concerning the effects of inflation and the instability of exchange rates prevented me from indicating at that time the level I was going to request for the I 980-8i budget. Now as you know all too well, this uncertainty and instability have been strongly intensified since that time. Therefore how could I now give you the slightest idea of the probable level of the Budget I shall propose for 1 982-83? Right now I am still receiving the first proposals from the departments and divisions. I have not yet finished assessing the impact of the cost increases which have occurred or are likely to occur during the coming biennium, especially those resulting from certain decisions still to be taken by the General Assembly regarding pensions and allowances.
However, in the light of the appalling world food situation to which I referred in the opening section of this statement, I cannot fail to mention some of my preoccupations on the question of Regular Programme resources.
I know that a climate of uneasiness and tension hangs over the world economy and that in some countries pressures, possibly intensified by the current political situation, for budgetary restraint are at work.
But, Mr. Chairman, could we yield to such pressures without a murmur? Could we forget the food crisis which threatens to strike the world next year?
We hear on all sides reports of increasing defence budgets in the different countries. Armament expenditures are estimated at $400 billion per year. How should we fail to also increase expenditures to save human beings from hunger and poverty? We shall have food reserves estimated at only 12 percent of world consumption. Yet we have TNT reserves estimated at five tons per person.
I have allowed myself this digression because we hear talk of defence budgets every day, and I feel the defence budget against hunger should also be increased.
What of population growth, which in many countries comes to 3 percent per year? The declining food production in Africa ? Could we renounce the international development stragegy which calls for a yearly growth rate of 4 percent for food and agricultural production?
Could I myself remain indifferent to the erosion of the pitiful 2.7 percent per year programme increase we had granted ourselves for the current biennium? May I be allowed, Mr. Chairman, to go into this question briefly here.
In 1980-81 we are undergoing a powerful inflationary surge not foreseen in the budget, resulting in much higher costs than are provided for in the Special Reserve Account. This additional burden was indeed foreseen when the budget was examined in 1979, but it was not covered by the last minute addition to the budget which I had proposed at the outset, mainly because the great majority of the members insisted on obtaining a consensus at the Conference. However that did not prevent some countries from abstaining in the vote on the budget.
This inflation which was not foreseen in the budget has forced us to cut back on programmes mainly by freezing posts, so that 2 percent of our meagre programme increase has already been completely wiped out. Most probably this situation will recur in 981.. Thus we are likely to find ourselves forced to fall in line almost wholly with the questionable principle of zero programme growth advocated by a few of the richest countries.
When the world is threatened by acute shortage can one seriously ask me to whole-heartedly endorse that ideal of zero programme growth for 1981-83 as well?
After all, FAO’s budget is ridiculously low compared with the dimensions of the domestic problems of the rich countries. In any case, those countries like all of us certainly hope that the present inflation and recession will be absorbed for the most part by 1982-83.
I would not have you think that I am getting a bargain out of the practical difficulties that are going to arise in the coming months and which, moreover, certain developing countries will not escape either. Quite the contrary; I am haunted constantly by a concern to economize. I have cut down costs whenever I could. Regarding travel, for example: air rates have already increased by an average of 27 percent between 1976/77 and 1978/79 and another 52 percent since then, and they will certainly not stop there. However to economize on this item I have terminated the long standing agreement with our travel agent and called for international competitive bids which ultimately will bring the Member States interest on income nearly two and a half times higher than previously, or an additional income on the order to a million dollars the first year and which will increase even further subsequently.
Furthermore, in the instructions I have given to the Departments and Divisions I specified that their proposals for the ) 982-83 Summary Programme of Work and Budget must be based on the principle - which I have always believed - that what really matters, much more than increasing funds and establishing posts, is to respond to the needs of the Member Nations, to help them strengthen their own potential, especially through the TCDC, to ensure a real efficiency of Headquarters activities and lastly, to manage our resources soundly.
I also told them that in a climate of recession and financial constraints only activities of the highest priority should be continued or undertaken and that as far as possible they must be financed by the elimination of activities which have been terminated or are less efficient. I am, therefore, going to review thoroughly not only all the minor changes that may be proposed but also the activities in their entirety so that I can shortly submit to you a realistic, coherent and action-oriented programme, in other words a programme which responds to your needs.
At the same time I am absolutely convinced that our Programme of Work and Budget must be equal to the world food and agriculture situation.
Until I have reviewed all the proposals and worked out some of my own ideas more thoroughly, it would be premature to describe to you the priorities for the next biennium.
However some orientations are virtually certain right now, including world food security; the priorities identified for each region by the Regional Conferences; follow-up of the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development; certain common problems, for example energy in food and agriculture; the maintenance of the TCP, the sole component of our Regular Programme enabling us to provide direct and short-term assistance in the field to the Member Nations; and, lastly, the completion of the main phase of our decentralization policy through the establishment of FAO country missions.
At the national level many countries have a crying need not only for assistance, resources for investment and projects under the FAO Special Action Programme, but also for increased technical assistance.
Our Organization can provide or speedily set up that aid, that technical assistance on condition, that its Regular Budget contains the modest resources required for undeniably necessary and urgent concrete action in the field.
Need for Structural Change
Allow me, Mr. Chairman, to add a few more words. In this critical situation it is high time that both the developed and the developing countries take up the challenge and reform their economic structures so that, individually and collectively, those countries can overcome the present difficulties before they lead to a world tragedy.
It is imperative that the developing countries face the problems raised by their increased food and oil imports, the deterioration of their food production, and above all the progres- sive spread of utter poverty.
However those developing countries are not the only ones that need structural reforms. Indeed, there were confrontations at the Special Session of the General Assembly concerning the agenda and the procedure for global negotiations. Nevertheless it is clear that some of the richer countries have understood the need to solve the problems which poison the relations between the prosperous north and the impoverished south, and are ready to pursue a serious discussion next June. Th s emerged in particular from the discussions recently conducted at Vienna between the representatives of eleven developed and developing countries. It is to be hoped, there- fore, that the start of the Global Negotiations on the substance of the problems will not remain an eternal mirage.
A Global Pact
Only a global pact will make it possible to overcome the recession in the rich countries of the north and, according to some, toward off the economic and financial upheaval now threat- ening the Third World
This pact cannot fail to include the policies and priorities set forth in the International Development Strategy for the food and agriculture sector, food aid - whether for emergencies or otherwise -, and the other programmes placed under FAO sponsorship.
On these questions at least the Global Negotiations will make it possible for once to by-pass the succession of studies, reservations and procrastinations which have been delaying the discussion of food problems in other forums for so many years. I for my part am doing my utmost to ensure that this opportunity be seized in a positive, constructive and fruitful way. It is with this firm resolve that I await the new year.
What Lies Ahead
Despite the sombre outlook at present, I am basically optimistic. If we maintain an inflex- ible will and an unshakable constancy, if we act firmly and with dynamism we shall utlimately succeed, I am certain of it. Not next year or the year after, but in a foreseeable future.
Yes, in spite of the dark days that lie before us, in spite of some differences of opinion and some difficulties, our great Organization shall maintain, you may be sure, the will for consensus and cooperation toward the common effort which has always done credit to its Member Nations.
Never departing from the duty of my office or my personal convictions, I shall constantly endeavour to ensure that the action of the Organization may be harmonious, pertinent and effective.
I am certain that I shall continue to have your total and unqualified confidence in guiding the great crusade waged by the Organization against the oldest, must relentless and most pernicious enemy of humanity - I mean hunger.