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Current World Food Situation1

10. The Council reviewed the current state of world food and agriculture in the light of documentation and the Director—General’s analysis in his opening statement. It agreed with the overall assessment and emphasized three main areas of uncertainty: the continuing deterioration in the food situation in Africa; a possible decline in food’ production in 1983; and the adverse longer—term effects of the world economic recession on development efforts.

11. The Council expressed its continuing serious concern with the precarious food situation in Africa to which it had drawn the attention of governments in earlier sessions. It noted with concern that in 1982 per caput food production had declined in 23 out of 42 African countries and that many of them were experiencing serious difficulties. The situation had been made worse by the widespread outbreaks of inderpest in livestock populations of 11 countries in the region. It called for support t9 the Director—General’s appeal for food aid and technical and financial assistance to the countries affected and also requested a prompt response to the need to rehabilitate livestock populations decimated by disease.

12. In reviewing the evolution of food production trends to the early l98Os, the Council noted the progress that had been made in some developing countries. Attention was drawn to the need for giving farmers adequate production incentives and increased access to production requisites. Within this context of expanding food production, particular stress was laid on parallel needs to promote effective and efficient resource use, to promote marketing efficiency, to improve food consumption through the expansion of employment, and to promote more effective distribution of food to those most in need.

13. Maintenance of adequate food supply, particularly of cereals, would be a critical element in improving world food security in 1984; but the likely level of output had been rendered more uncertain by incomplete knowledge of the effect of the acreage reduction programmes introduced in important cereal—producing countries. The Council was informed that, in one major cereal—producing country, such measures had been taken to reduce excess stocks, to maintain producer incomes and achieve adjustments. The Council noted with concern the possible negative impact of such reductions on global food supplies.

14. The Council noted with concern the current paradoxical situation regarding food stocks and consumption. On the one hand, carry—over stocks of cereals and some other food products were relatively large; on the other hand, problems of widespread hunger remained. This situation underlined the existing imperfections in the world’s economic system and the uneven distribution of resources.

15. The Council considered that the world economic climate was far from conducive to the attainment of just and equitable economic growth and development. Opinions differed in detail on how speedily the recession would give way to resumed economic growth in. developed countries and the extent of the beneficial impact this would have on growth prospects of developing countries. However, the Council considered that the magnitude of the setback to growth that had ensued could have adverse long—term effects on the fragile economies of low—income countries.

16. The Council viewed with concern the deterioration in agricultural trade, in particular the decline in commodity prices and in some cases, in trade volumes. The deteriorating terms of trade and rising indebtedness of many developing countries, particularly in Africa, had worsened their already difficult situation. Furthermore, it was viewed with great concern that developing countries had become net importers of agricultural products for the first time in 1981: Access to markets had been constrained and protectionist measures strengthened. In particular, developing country exporters of agricultural products had difficulty in competing with subsidized exports of industrialized countries with their more developed and more diversified economies.

17. Underlining the interdependence of developing and developed countries, the Council paled for a fresh commitment to muitilateralism and for more liberalized trade policies including the removal of protectionist barriers.

18. The Council stressed the need for a renewed sense of international cooperation and that this should extend to the flow of development assistance to agriculture. The Council expressed its grave concern at the stagnation and, in real terms, the decline in the levels of Official Commitments of External Assistance to Agriculture since 1979 and the deterioration in its concessionality.

19. The adverse longer—term impact of the recession on the ability of the agricultural sector to respond positively and rapidly to greater production efforts was especially emphasized by the Council in the case of fertilizers. The Council noted with concern that demand for fertilizers had weakened, In some cases, this ominous trend was caused by a reduction in subsidies, which itself was the consequence of budgetary cutbacks. In other cases, balance—of—payments problems constrained fertilizer imports. Although fertilizer prices in world markets were low in relation to their manufacturing costs, farmers were not always able to exploit this situation to their advantage. At the same time, the potential productive capacity of the fertilizer industry was being threatened. The Council urged that, in this situation, greater emphasis could be given to more efficient programmes of fertilizer aid including such programmes as FAO’s International Fertilizer Supply Scheme.

20. In voicing concern about the stagnation of external assistance to agriculture since 1979, the Council pointed out that financial and technical aid was essential to accelerated development of developing countries, and that food aid was an important component of such assistance. The Council agreed that food aid needs were substantially in excess of the current 10 million tons target. It was stressed that overall food aid, including contributions to the International Emergency Food Reserve, needed to be increased, keeping in mind estimated total food aid requirements of 20 million tons of cereals by 1985, The number of donors also needed to be larger and more diverse,

21. It was felt that information about private international flows as well as domestic public expenditure in agriculture was needed in order to provide a full picture. The Council was informed that to obtain accurate information on private investments was an extremely difficult task. However, FAO was now engaged in the processing of data on domestic public expenditure on agriculture for the five—year period, 1978—82, based on .data obtained from 57 countries out of 93 countries originally approached and that a preliminary report would be forthcoming.

22. Some members expressed concern that there was not more information about the involvement of Transnational Corporations (TNCs) in agricultural trade, input supply, food production, processing and distribution systems of developing countries, The Council was informed about the work of the United Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations, as well as relevant work in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and was assured that FAO would keep in touch with this work and would inform members about its research.

23. Concern was widely expressed about the possible adverse effects on small farmers of efforts to modernize and commercialize agriculture. It was felt that these small farmers should not be deprived of access to productive resources as a consequence of this trend, Means could be sought to improve the management of small—scale farm units through group or cooperative methods, and such developments would be in keeping with the principles of the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD). Referring to the important area of land reform and land tenure, the Council expressed concern with the increased landlessness in many developing countries and requested FAO to assist in this respect in accordance with the Programme of Action of WCARRD. The Council noted that efforts to coordinate activities within FAO in line with WCARRD principles were ensured by a standing Inter—Departmental Committee and an Inter—Divisional Working Group. In—depth country case studies had been carried out to evaluate progress in agrarian reform and rural development; furthermore, a set of socio—economic indicators had been developed in consultation with Member Governments, The forthcoming FAO Conference would discuss the benchmarks and progress in the implementation of the WCARRD Principles and Programme of Action,

24. The Council agreed that average or per caput measurements of food production alone could not show the accessibility to food by all sections of the population within a low— income country. Need was expressed for deeper study of the implications of rapid popula— tion growth and dynamic changes in demographic patterns for agriculture and food systems of developing countries, The Council was informed that there might be a special chapter in The State of Food and Agriculture on population growth, urbanization and food systems.

25. Implications of population growth and urbanization for agricultural land and water resources were also felt to deserve future attention in FAO situation and outlook reporting. For example, it was suggested that when changes in irrigated areas were reported, it was relevant to examine not only new irrigation area and losses in area due to Stalinizations and other causes, but also reductions in irrigated area and water avail-ability resulting from urban expansion and competition from other non—agricultural uses.

Report of the Eighth Session of the Committee on World Food Security (Rome, 13—20 April 1983) 2

26. The Council considered and endorsed the report of the Eighth Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), including its conclusions and recommendations.

27. The Council expressed its appreciation of the report and proposals on world food security which the Director—General had submitted to the CFS. It considered it to be the most comprehensive and far—reaching of reviews so far made of the subject and to have given the CFS a good basis to fulfill its role better in its future sessions.

28. The Council reviewed and endorsed the revised concept of world food security as viewed from a global perspective and a broad institutional framework, which had been adopted by the CFS as follows:

(a) The ultimate objective of world food security should be to ensure that all people at all times have both physical and economic access to the basic food they need.

(b) Food security should have three specific aims, namely ensuring production of adequate food supplies; maximizing stability in the flow of supplies; and securing access to available supplies on the part of those who need them,

(c) Action would be needed on a wide front including all factors that have a bearing on the capacity of both countries and people to produce or purchase food. Action should cover all basic foodstuffs necessary for health. Agricultural and rural development, food production, particularly in the low—income food—deficit countries; the purchasing power of the poorest strata of the population; food reserves; the functioning of national and international food markets; the foreign exchange needs of importing countries; trade liberalization and export earnings; financial resources and technical assistance; and the flow of food aid and arrangements to meet emergency needs were some but by no means all of the specific areas where action was needed to enhance food security.

(d) This action should take the form of specific measures at national, regional and international levels, bearing in mind the essential need to strengthen local food security, distinguishing between the requirements of rural and urban people and those in remote or located areas. Therefore, action should be in accordance with the Declaration of Principles and Programme of Action as adopted by the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development.

29. The Council agreed that whereas cereals had so far been the main focus of inter-national attention, a wider approach was needed covering all basic foodstuffs including roots, tubers, pulses, plantains and edible oils, as well as other essential complementary foods, in addition to food grains.

30. The Council strongly supported the recommendations contained in the CFS report on national measures which provided the indispensable foundation for an improved food security system. It agreed on the need for developing countries, and especially low—income food—deficit countries, to evolve national food security programmes, systems or strategies with clear—cut objectives, appropriate policies to achieve these objectives, including adequate incentives to farmers, and adequate resources to implement the policies which had been identified,

31. The Council underlined that each government had the responsibility to do its utmost to strengthen national food security, by giving higher priority to food production and food security infrastructure.

32. The Council considered that national measures could be complemented by regional and sub—regional action, within the framework of the guidelines which had been drawn up by the Committee on World Food Security, It welcomed recent initiatives in this field, including the establishment of the FAO Regional Commission on Food Security for Asia and the Pacific, and the establishment of an Action Committee on Regional Food Security by the Latin American Economic System. The Council recognized with appreciation the support being provided by the Director—General to regional food security efforts.

33. The Council stressed that national and regional efforts were handicapped by the absence of an effective global food security system. The Council reaffirmed that in designing and executing their national food security programmes, developing countries would need aid in the form of financial resources, food aid and/or technical assistance to augment national efforts, This was all the more necessary as the deterioration in the food security situation of these countries was largely caused by international developments outside the control of the governments concerned, It also stressed that peace was an essential prerequisite for accelerating food production growth.

34. The Council agreed that in view of the critical food supply situation in many developing countries, food aid remained an essential component of development aid. Food aid should be used to stimulate food production, within the framework of national development programmes or food sector strategies where appropriate. Among others, the usefulness of food aid to introduce or promote irrigation in rain fed areas, and particularly in chronically drought—prone areas, was stressed.

35, The Council emphasized the need for additional contributions and a wider spread of contributors in order to meet the annual target of the International Emergency Food Reserve (IEFR).

36. The Council reaffirmed its support for the activities of the Food Security Assistance Scheme. It noted with concern that several projects developed under the Scheme remained to be financed, It also stressed the need to reduce food losses.

37. The Council agreed that a free and growing export trade was one of the important foundations for establishing food security, The Council called for a further liberali-zation of trade, especially in products of export interest to developing countries, through negotiations in the TCTAD, GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and other appropriate for a. The importance of promoting trade among developing countries within the framework of the Economic Cooperation between Developing Countries (ECDC) was also stressed,

38. The Council noted that the International Wheat Agreement had been extended in its existing form. The Council called for the conclusion of a more effective agreement with price and stock clauses.

39. The Council recognized that FAO had played a pioneering role in efforts to strengthen world food security and was making a significant and substantial contribution through its regular and special programmes. Recognition was also given to the innovative character of the Director—General’s proposals for a food security action programme, a special world food security fund, and a world food security compact and the need to develop these ideas further. While there were divergent views on measures needed at the global level, there was a general willingness to review such proposals at future sessions of the CFS when they were presented in greater detail.

40. The Council appreciated that many of the proposals were of a preliminary nature and would require further elaboration and clarification. The Council agreed that the -. Director—General’s report should be followed up at subsequent sessions of the CFS, and agreed to the approach set out in paragraph 90 of its report. It requested the Director— General to initiate action on matters where the CFS had reached consensus, and to give greater emphasis to proposals on which consensus seemed possible in the near future, This should not preclude the elaboration and discussion of proposals which could be followed up in the CFS or other appropriate “fora” over the medium— and longer—term.

41. In view of the complexity and persistence of food security problems, there was wide support for a strengthening of the CFS within its existing terms of reference. The Council urged all international agencies and institutions dealing with food issues to cooperate closely and coordinate their efforts, keeping in mind their respective mandates, in order to avoid overlap and wastage of resources, and to maximize progress towards the common goal of achieving a viable global food security system, keeping in mind the revised and broader concept as adopted by the CFS and endorsed by the Council.

42. The Council shared the Committee’s serious concern with the deteriorating food situation in many low—income food—deficit countries, particularly in Africa, and welcomed the special study of this grave problem which had been initiated by the CFS. The Council recognized the long—term physical, social, economic and institutional constraints to food production in this region.

43. The Council acknowledged the complexity of the problem and supported the various measures recommended by the Committee to overcome the various constraints. It agreed that actions should be based on the choice of priorities made by the African governments themselves. It endorsed the Committee’s suggestion that the priorities could be grouped within four broad areas, as follows:

(a) Training. Skills were scarce in low—income African countries, In order to provide needed skills, training was required for high—level manpower in agricultural, engineering, social, economic, and managerial sciences; also for intermediate—level manpower in technical, administrative and communication skills; and training of both female and male farmers, transporters, food processors and distributors at the grassroots level. The emphasis at all levels must be to train people to solve problems arising in the specific context of African ecological, economic, and social conditions.

(b) Research. Systematic research at national and sub—regional levels was needed to develop technologies that would resolve some of the most pressing constraints in production, processing, storage, and distribution of food. Particular attention should be given to basic food crops, including roots and tubers. Both basic and applied research should be based on a clear understanding of the local economic and social systems as well as the ecology within which new technologies would be employed, including appropriate farming systems.

(c) Delivery Systems. Attention needed to be directed to creating effective delivery systems that would serve small farmers, including women. Both public and private delivery systems had to be developed so that the required inputs and services .were regularly available at appropriate prices, times and locations. Inputs and services to be delivered would include:.

(i) Agricultural inputs, including fertilizers, seeds, pesticides and implements;

(ii) Marketing, including prompt purchase and payment for crops and distribution .of basic consumer goods;

(iii) Credit with appropriate repayment arrangements;

(iv) Extension, with emphasis on basic food crops;

(v) Storage and processing of foodstuffs;

(vi) Veterinary services and livestock production including small ruminants and poultry;

(vii) Food technology including processing and handling.

(d) Institutional Development. To break constraints in these priority areas, institutions needed to be strengthened, so that policies and programmes could be better planned, executed, monitored and evaluated. In addition to the institutions that should be strengthened to carry out training, research, and delivery functions, there must be effective policy—making and executive agencies at national and sub—national levels. A crucial dimension of policy—making was to create effective incentives.

44. The Council appreciated the prompt action by the Director—General in response to the requests made by the Twelfth TAO Regional Conference for Africa. This action included a survey of trained manpower needs as well as the establishment of a secretariat Task Force to monitor systematically the food supply situation and the production of staple food in African countries affected or threatened by serious food shortages. The Council requested the Director—General to report periodically to it and to other relevant fora of FAO on the progress made and the results achieved, The Council underlined the need to augment the resources allocated to agriculture in the low—income food—deficit countries of Africa, and stressed that both domestic and external resources should be carefully deployed in order to obtain optimum results. Several members offered to extend or strengthen their economic and technical cooperation to help tackle regional food production problems.

45. The Council welcomed the intention of the Committee on World Food Security to continue to keep under review the serious food production problems faced by low—income food—deficit countries in Africa, bearing in mind the responsibilities of other TAO technical bodies, especially the Committee on Agriculture. It looked forward to the second report on the subject, including an outline of possible follow—up action to be considered by the Committee.

46. Referring to the recent IMF (International Monetary Fund) assistance to South Africa, the Council asked member countries of TAO and international financing organizations to devote the largest possible amount of resources to help the low—income food—deficit African countries. A solemn appeal was launched to them to refrain from strengthening the economic potential of South Africa whose regime carried out destabilizing activities in southern Africa which constituted a powerful brake on a viable food security system.

1 CL 83/2; CL 83/2—Sup.1; CL 83/PV/2; CL 83/PV/3; CL 83/PV/l7.

2 CL 83/10, CFS: 83/4; CL 83/PV/3; CL 83/PV/4; CL 83/PV!5; CL 83/PV/l7.

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