8. The Council reviewed the world food and agricultural situation and resource use for agricultural production in the light of the Director-General’s report, the State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) 1982, and its Supplement, and generally endorsed his assessments.
9. The Council expressed concern at the continuing bleak situation of the world economy with low economic growth, high unemployment, monetary and foreign exchange instability and a high level of real interest rates. Persistence of these disturbing trends was affecting agricultural production and trade in many ways in both developing and developed countries. Farm incomes were adversely affected and protectionist pressures in certain developed countries were becoming stronger.
10. The Council noted that in 1981 world food production had increased by three percent and in 1982 by only one to one and a half percent. As a result, global supplies of cereals and some other commodities were ample. While the overall supply situation had improved, the gains achieved over the past two years had been unevenly distributed among regions and countries, and unfortunately hunger persisted in some while food surpluses were mounting in others. Thus, while there was no immediate threat of a world food shortage, there was little room for complacency.
11. The food production increase in 1982 was unevenly distributed. Asia and the Far East were likely to have no increase in production, and other developing regions lower growth rates than in 1981. The Council noted with concern that cereal imports by developing countries were expected to rise further in 1982/83.
12. Another unsatisfactory element of the current situation was the persistence, though at a slightly reduced level, of food shortages and emergency situations, particularly in Africa. They were caused by droughts and increasingly also by manmade factors. Crop short-falls and emergencies had, however, to be provided for. It was urged that donors take steps to place the International Emergency Food Reserve (IEFR) on a planned, regular and fully multilateral basis and that its target of 500 000 tons of cereals be fully met in 1982.
13. Particular concern was expressed at the persisting food problems in sub-Saharan Africa. Analysis of these problems and strategies for tackling them had been articulated in the Africa Regional Food Plan, prepared by FAO in cooperation with the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and further elaborated in the Lagos Plan of Action, the implementation of which was extensively discussed by the Twelfth FAO Regional Conference for Africa. The Council supported the recommendations of this Conference, drawing particular attention to the need for FAO to assist in expanding training of needed manpower for appropriate resource management and other aspects of LPA implementation.
14. Reference was also made to the still unsatisfactory level of per caput food supplies in some countries in Asia, despite increasing production. Changing the food supply pattern by increasing the production of pulses, oilseeds and potatoes was considered likely to relieve the pressure on cereal production. It would reduce the need for cereal imports and at the same time introduce a more varied and nutritious dietary pattern.
15. The uneven regional performance in food production in 1982 had also created further problems with regard to the size, constitution and distribution of world cereal stccks. At about 20 percent of apparent consumption, these would be above what was considered the minimum safe level. But the stocks were increasingly held by the main exporting countries, and predominantly as coarse grains not widely consumed directly as food. This was creating problems for developed country storage facilities and exerting a strong downward pressure on prices. Cereal. prices had reached such low levels that production cutbacks could ensue and thereby threaten future supplies. Excessive concentration of stocks was affecting world food security. The Council urged that greater attention be given to the establishment of adequate cereal stocks in developing importing countries and that needed assistance be given to them for this purpose. It also underlined that this was an appropriate time to do so in view of the ample supply situation.
16. The Council stressed that, notwithstanding increased stocks of cereals and establishment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) food facility, there had not been sufficient improvement in world food security. The Council urged a resumption of the negotiations toward a new International Wheat Agreement as an essential step in strength-ening and stabilizing food supplies.
17. The Council welcomed the survey of resource and input use presented in the document CL 82/2 and requested that such analysis be prepared as a regular feature of SOFA. The meeting was informed that FAO had access to only limited and infrequent data at the country level, for example on the use of improved seeds and pesticides, the extent of irrigated land and power use on farms. Developing countries in particular were urged to collect such data and make them available to FAO. Meanwhile, the subject would be covered in SOFA every few years.
18. Emphasis was placed on the importance of giving more attention to price policies related to both marketed output and purchased inputs. The Council underlined the need for pricing systems and incentives to induce more food production without harming low-income consumers or marginal smallholders. The Council welcomed the Director-General’s initiative to undertake a comprehensive study of agricultural price policies and their relationship to agricultural production, food consumption and trade, with emphasis on developing countries.
19. The Council stressed the need for more resources to be devoted to agricultural research in developing countries in order to facilitate expanded food and agricultural production, along with attainment of other objectives such as increased employment and more equitable access to inputs and services on the part of the poor. It was stressed that such research programmes should give priority to the needs and potentials of under-employed farm families in disadvantaged locations. The need was emphasized to design applied research networks as an integral part of information dissemination, input supply, credit and marketing systems. Recent examples of research cooperation among countries in some regions were noted. The Council called on developed countries to continue to foster more effective means for sharing their agricultural, scientific and technical knowledge and experience and stressed the need for greater ëoordination of international and national agricultural research programmes. It recommended that FAO should strengthen its role in promoting agricultural research, especially in its medium-term programmes.
20. Serious concern was voiced about the implications for the natural environment of expanded populations and food production. Cases were cited of widespread soil depletion and erosion where production of food and export crops had been intensified. Similar concern was voiced about forest clearing in long-established as well as newly settled rural areas. FAO’s role in promoting sound forest management practices to avoid environmental degradation was underlined. The importance of creating productive infrastructure in forestry, especially for the production of fuel wood and the provision of jobs in rural areas was also stressed.Broader problems of fisheries and wildlife depletion, ecological balance and environmental quality needed more attention in the future.
21. The deteriorating climate for international cooperation for development was particularly manifest in the flagging flows of development assistance to agriculture. It was estimated that official commitments to agriculture (narrow definition) amounted to about $7 000 million in 1981. This was a significant sum in a time of economic recession, but nevertheless it represented a slowdown in the momentum achieved in the 1970s, and was far below the estimated requirements. This record went against the consensus expressed at recent summits and other meetings that development assistance should be increased and priority should be given to agriculture. The Council expressed particular concern at the decline in multilateral and even more in bilateral assistance to agriculture and urged donors to maintain their earlier record of growth in development assistance even in this time of budgetary stringency.
22. The Council noted with grave concern the deterioration in the agricultural trade situation, particularly for developing countries. According to many members, this deterioration was due in particular to growing protectionism and export subsidies. It noted that, for the first time in recent years, the total value of agricultural trade declined in 1981 - one percent for the world as a whole, and more than four percent for the developing countries. Prices for a wide range of agricultural commodities had significantly declined and the purchasing power, particularly of developing countries’ agricultural exports, had deteriorated to their lowest levels since the early 1970s. The widespread recession was seen as one of the factors for reduced incomes and demands for agricultural exports. The related tendency towards a rise in protectionism against agricultural imports in some industrialized nations was observed with particular concern. The use of food as a political weapon was criticized. Constraints on free trade could only hamper development efforts and greater liberalization of agricultural trade was an urgent priority. It was recognized that the unemployment and farm-income difficulties being encountered in the developed nations caused them understandable concern. At the same time, the Council felt that means of price and income stabilization, other than trade protectionism, would in the long run be in the interest of both groups of nations. Disappointment was expressed that new commodity agreements and other innovative arrangements to facilitate North-South trade had not made more progress. Hope was expressed that the GATT Ministerial meeting would bring agricultural trade problems more within the ambit of multilateral negotiations and bring due attention to the particular difficulties faced by developing nations in promoting their agricultural exports. Furthermore, other members drew attention to the fact that agriculture was different in nature from other sectors of the economy.
23. The Council noted with satisfaction the relative improvement of fishery production and particularly the increased share of developing countries in trade in fishery products. Although some problems of adjusting to the new regime of the seas were being experienced by many fishery nations, there were cases where joint ventures and fishing agreements between nations had succeeded in minimizing these problems.
24. With reference to paragraph 40 of document CL 82/2, the Council was informed that between 18 March and 22 April 1982, 22 outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, type 01, were reported in Denmark . The disease was controlled and, eradicated by strict measures, including slaughtering of all susceptible animals in infected holdings without recourse to vaccination, Denmark was declared free from the disease by 4 June 1982.
25. Some members expressed the opinion that CL 82/2 appeared to be incomplete, because it did not spell out the concrete action the Council should take to resolve the food shortage problem existing in developing countries, particularly in Africa . It was explained, however, that the State of Food and Agriculture was a policy-oriented analytical document, and its present orientation and format had been determined by the FAO Council and Conference. It was not meant for discussion of concrete programmes of action for regions or countries; other documents fulfilled that purpose, as was indicated, for example, in paragraph 13, which referred to analyses on and programmes for alleviating the food and agricultural situation in Africa.
26. The Council considered and endorsed the Report of the Seventh Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), including its conclusions and recommendations.
27. The Council agreed with the Committee’s assessment of the world food security situation. It noted several important international activities which helped to strengthen food security, including the Global Information and Early Warning System, the International Emergency Food Reserve (IEFR), the enlarged Food Aid Convention, the extended International Monetary Fund (IMF) Compensatory Facility, the Food Security Assistance Scheme (FSAS) and Prevention of Food Losses (PFL) Programme, and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional reserve.
28. The Council stressed, however, that overall progress had been limited. The recent general improvement in the global cereal supply position had not prevented a deterioration in the food security of many low-income countries, the cereals food aid target had not been met, and the IEFR remained inadequate and uncertain. A renewed effort to concert action was necessary.
29. The Council therefore welcomed the Director-General’s proposal that the CFS should reappraise the concept of world food security and the role of the Committee within the broad framework of the activities of the various international institutions dealing with food. The Council considered this was a timely initiative, which had arisen out of serious concern for the limited progress, in relation to the magnitude of the world food security problem, made since 1974. It also met the anxieties of governments about the persisting food security difficulties and the apparent duplication and overlapping of various fora dealing with these issues. Governments were looking forward to the report which was being prepared by the Director-General, which would form the basis for the review by the CFS.It was urged that the report be issued well in advance of the next CFS Session in order to permit governments to give such an important report the study it deserved. It was also urged that the report be action-oriented. The Council agreed that the Committee provided the appropriate consultative forum for governments to analyse the problem from all aspects and to make recommendations on world food security, and considered that FAO should continue to play its role in the coordination of food security efforts.
30. The Council reiterated that increasing food production, particularly in developing countries, was the key to long-term food security. It expressed concern at the slow growth of food production in many developing countries, especially in low-income food-deficit countries some of which continued to experience serious food shortages. It stressed the need for appropriate national price, marketing and distribution policies, and access to agricultural inputs at reasonable prices, as well as a general improvement in the world economy, to ensure the profitability of farming. It was felt that food strategies might also constitute an appropriate framework for attaining the basic objective of food security. Expanded food production by itself was not enough, since it would have to be accompanied by equitable distribution.
31. The Council welcomed the intention of the Committee to consider at its next session the constraints on food production in low-income food-deficit countries in Africa.It was informed that, as requested by CFS, the Secretariat was preparing an interim report analysing existing studies and taking into account the work being done in other organizations, indicating information gaps, and identifying problems hampering food production in these countries. On the basis of this interim analysis, the Committee would consider possible recommendations and appropriate follow-up action.
32. In this connection, the Council was informed that the Lagos Plan of Action provided a broad programme for the Africa region as a whole and noted that progress in its implementation had been discussed at the recent FAO Regional Conference in Africa . The Council expressed its appreciation of the special action by the Government of Italy to extend assistance to the CILSS countries in support of their food production efforts.
33. The Council recognized that, in the absence of a new international grains arrangement with provisions for food security and market stability, it was necessary to give increased support to national efforts to establish food security stocks in line with the Plan of Action on World Food Security.
34. While carry-over stocks of cereals were now ample at the global level, many developing countries had not yet succeeded in implementing their food security programmes. The Council recognized that most of these countries would not be able to build up food security stocks and make the necessary investment in storage facilities and infrastructure without increased external assistance.
35. In this connection, the Council appreciated the role played by the FSAS and shared the Committee’s concern about the inadequate resources available to it. The Council called for increased support for food security projects, both multilaterally through the FSAS and on a bilateral basis. It agreed with the Committee that the FSAS should concentrate on funding the more urgent technical assistance and smaller-scale investment projects,while large investment projects should be primarily financed through bilateral programmes or multilateral financial institutions.
36. The Council also stressed the need for increased resources to strengthen the Action Programme for the Prevention of Food Losses.
37, The Council supported regional and sub-regional approaches to strengthen food security including infrastructure, production and early warning systems. It emphasized that such approaches should supplement and not supplant efforts and arrangements at national and global levels. Reference was made to the Experts’ Meeting on Food Security Reserve Schemes of the Group of 77, which, inter alia, concluded that nationally-held reserves constitute a basis for cooperative action aimed at establishing a network of subregional and regional food security schemes, starting from modest beginnings.
38. The Council noted the need to provide training in food systems management and wel-comed the offer made by some member countries to provide technical assistance as well as share their experience in food supply management, with a view to strengthening food security at sub-regional and regional levels.
39. The Council agreed that food aid remained an important component of food security until national efforts to increase food production succeeded in closing the food gap or until the developing countries’ economies were strong enough to enable them to make adequate commercial purchases in the world market.
40. The Council recognized that important elements of world food security included access to markets and price stabilization measures, which would enable the developing countries to attain stable and expanding export earnings.
Revision and Up-Dating of Guidelines and Targets for International Agricultural Adjustment 3
41. The Twentieth Session of the FAO Conference had agreed that the guidelines for International Agricultural Adjustment should be reviewed and revised in the light of developments since their adoption in 1975.
42. A Government Consultation held in March 1981 made progress towards agreed formulations of revised and up-dated guidelines, as recorded in document CL 82/29. Consensus was not reached on the formulation of all the guidelines.
43. At this present session, the Council appointed a Contact Group consisting of Cameroon, Colombia, France (with EEC), Japan , New Zealand , Norway , Philippines , United States of America and Yugoslavia to review the Report of the Government Consultation and to endeavour to reach agreement on those guidelines on which there had not been a consensus. The United States declined to participate in the Contact Group which developed the text referred to in the following paragraphs; the notes on the United States positions in the text with respect to individual guidelines refer to reservations made by the United States Representative at the Government Consultation of March 1981.
44. The Council noted with appreciation that the Contact Group had reached consensus although one part of Guideline 10 would need to be reconsidered by the Conference in the light of subsequent developments concerning the International Emergency Food Reserve.
45. The Council decided that the draft guidelines (reproduced in Appendix E to the present Report) should be submitted directly to the Twenty-second Session of the Conference for its consideration and adoption if it so decides. The introductory part of the document for the Conference should record briefly the background to the draft revised guidelines and the request of Council that the Conference take into account the following suggestions:
– Guideline 1 could include the phrase “to promote the establishment of a new international economic order” as the main purpose of international agricultural adjustment;
– Guideline 7 could be reviewed in the light of results which might be achieved with regard to trade in specialized fora of the UN system, particularly GATT and UNCTAD.
1 CL 82/2; CL 82/2-Corr.1 - Arabic, English and Spanish only; CL 82/2 - Sup.1; CL 82/PV/l; CL 82/PV/2; CL 82/PV/3; CL 82/PV/17.
2 CL 82/10; CL 82/PV/4; CL 82/PV/5; CL 82/PV/l7.
3 CL 82/29; CL 82/LIM/4; CL 82/LIM/4-Corr.l; CL 82/PV/l6; CL 82/PV/l9.