WORLD FOOD AND AGRICULTURE SITUATION
11. The Council reviewed the global and regional food and agricultural situation on the basis of the Director-General’s report, The State of Food and Agriculture 1986 and its Supplement, and his opening statement. It generally endorsed the analysis and assessment of the situation presented.
12. The Council noted that global economic conditions in 1985 and 1986 presented a mixed picture of positive and negative features. Economic growth rates had been disappointing, growth in trade had slowed, commodity markets were depressed, particularly for some agricultural products, and flows of both concessional and non-concessional capital had been set back. Against this sombre picture, the Council noted that declining inflation and interest rates, realignments in exchange rates and some favourable economic indicators provided some hope of possible improvement in the future for certain, especially industrialized, countries.
13. The Council deplored the widespread proliferation of trade protectionism in agricultural and other markets, through the use of subsidies and similar practices affecting exports. This was detrimental to many countries and was hindering the growth in world trade needed to allow indebted developing countries to service their debt and allow a sufficient expansion of imports to sustain their economic development.
14. A certain number of members asked the European Economic Community (EEC) and other developed countries which in their opinion practiced protectionism, subsidies and other similar measures affecting international trade, to try to gradually eliminate these barriers. It was stressed that for many developing countries, trade concessions were much more meaningful and lasting than outright grants. In response to these members, the EEC stated that its practices affected all agricultural product exporting countries, and that in its view it was necessary for all these countries to make a collective effort to resolve the problems within the framework of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations.
15. The Council underlined the need for effective reform of world agricultural markets to make them more responsive and subject to fairer trading conditions. It, therefore, welcomed the initiatives taken at the recent special Session of the GATT Contracting Parties to launch a new round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations (MTN), termed the Uruguay Round. These negotiations would involve extensive coverage for the first time of all direct and indirect subsidies and other practices affecting agricultural trade, with the overall aim of halting and reversing protectionism, removing distortions to trade, and bringing about liberalization and expansion of world trade for the benefit of all countries, especially developing ones. The Council urged that FAO contribute to these negotiations where they impinged on agricultural trade and welcomed the initiatives of the Director-General to commit FAO to provide information and statistics that could be required to further the discussions. It also emphasized, however, that the launching of the Uruguay Round marked a first step in a lengthy process of negotiation. Furthermore, parallel reforms were needed in domestic policies affecting agriculture. Other direct actions to attempt to bring stability into agricultural markets were noted, examples being the need to ratify the Common Fund for Commodities and to make the International Wheat Agreement, which many members felt should include economic clauses, more operable.
16. The Council noted the role that transnational corporations (TNC) could play in the development of agriculture. Some members felt that these corporations could adversely affect the interests of developing countries. They urged FAO to complete the study being made on TNC and agriculture. The Council was informed that the study, based on a review of the literature and some case studies, was being currently reviewed by the United Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations, the United Nations body charged to review their affairs and operations. Some members urged that the topic be placed on the agenda of the next session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS).
17. Reviewing the difficult financial situation faced by the many heavily indebted countries -- a situation in which high interest rates on debt servicing were hindering the economic growth of developing countries and affecting in particular food and agriculture -- concern was expressed about the tendency for the momentum of development assistance to falter, and the fact that capital was beginning to flow in a reverse direction, back to the capital surplus countries. Although developing countries themselves should draw on their own financial resources for development as far as possible and should take measures to prevent capital flight and other leakages, there was a concomitant need for the more developed countries to step up the flow o capital resources as well as to allow greater access to their markets. Indeed a financial crisis was spreading and was affecting the funding of inter national organizations deeply concerned with agriculture and rural development such as FAO and the International Fund or Agricultural Development (IFAD). While the Council noted with satisfaction that the second replenishment of IFAD became effective on 27 November 1986 ; it regretted the lower level of the second replenishment and called on the international community to support efforts that were being made in order for IFAD to continue its useful role on a secure and stable financial basis.
18. The Council welcomed the fact that the world food situation was generally satisfactory with respect to the global presence of ample supplies of food. A similar situation also existed for certain important inputs such as fertilizers. Nevertheless, it was regretted that a paradoxical situation persisted of food surpluses coexisting with widespread and growing under nutrition despite low prices. The situation existed because of the unfavourable economic environment, discussed above, that prevented countries from importing the food required because of a lack of foreign exchange. Poverty was also widespread in many developing countries so that people even in desperate need for food lacked effective demand. Increasing the purchasing power of small farmers was viewed as essential. The link between food security and access to food was therefore underlined, as was the role which the implementation of employment and incomes policies could play in this regard.
19. The Council regretted the deterioration in dietary energy supplies occurring in the early 1980s in nearly half of the countries surveyed in the document, the majority of them considered low income countries, and noted that this exemplified the link between poverty and food security. In this connection, the members of Council belonging to the Latin America and Caribbean region expressed their support for the proposal made by ‘the President of the Republic of Colombia for a conference to be held on the eradication of absolute poverty in the region. They called on FAO to participate, if requested, in this conference.
20. The Council emphasized the important role that donors could play in promoting increased food ‘and agricultural production in developing countries through increased flows of development assistance and the more rapid transfer of appropriate technologies. It noted with satisfaction the Director- General’s proposal that more aid-in-kind, such as agricultural inputs, should be given. Such actions could have a direct impact on agricultural production and relieve foreign exchange constraints. It could also assist in redressing the undesirable situation characterized by slow growth in the use of fertilizers and other agricultural inputs in most developing regions.
21. It was observed that there were wide and increasing differences in agricultural productivity between the various regions. In part this situation reflected the endowment of natural resources in the regions and countries and the structure of their agricultural sectors, but it also was the result of past and current investment in, and policies towards, agriculture. It was suggested that in view of the importance of conserving and regenerating agriculture, forestry and fisheries resources to ensure sustained growth, a study on the matter could be carried out in the next biennium. The Council urged that domestic agricultural policies of developing countries take into account the balance needed between food crop production to sustain self- sufficiency objectives, export crop production to earn foreign exchange, and promotion of indigenous products. It also emphasized that agricultural policies should on the one hand take into account the growing needs of urban populations, and on the other hand offer prices and returns to farmers that’ would reflect the aspirations of the farming community. Particular attention should be given to women and the formation of cooperatives and other associations that could effectively assist small-scale farmers.
22. In reviewing recent food production trends in Africa , the Council noted that such production had grown about eight percent during 1985 and 1986 combined. The Council supported the domestic policy reforms that underlined the commitment of African leaders to give priority to agriculture, as shown in the Harare Declaration of 1984, Africa’s Priority Programme for Economic Recovery 1986-1990 (APPER) adopted by the Twenty-first Organization of African Unity (OAU) Summit in July 1985, and the UN Programme of Action for African Economic Recovery and Development 1986-1990 (PAAERD) adopted by the Thirteenth Special Session of the UN General Assembly on 1 June 1986. It noted the building of excess stocks of cereals in some countries and expressed concern that they overburdened present storage facilities and financial systems. It called upon donors to step up their support for triangular transactions in Africa as a form of food aid whereby the surpluses of developing countries could relieve the needs of nearby deficit countries. Such an approach would help forge the links of South-South cooperation, as well as assist in furthering economic cooperation among developing countries.
23. The Council commended the Director-General’s initiative in undertaking the study “African Agriculture: The Next 25 Years”.2 It agreed with the main focus of the study on the four is: incentives, inputs, institutional strengthening and infrastructural development. It urged that a similar study focusing on the agricultural problems in the Latin America and Caribbean region, requested at the Nineteenth FAO Regional Conference (August 1986) be implemented with a view to developing an action plan for the region, whose economic situation had deteriorated considerably.
24. With reference to developments in southern Africa, the Council expressed its deep concern about the destabilizing actions of the regime of South Africa, which were adversely affecting agricultural planning and production and the economic progress of many neighbouring countries, and it requested the international community to assist and support the economic and social development of such adversely affected countries wherever necessary.3
25. The Council expressed satisfaction that the campaign mounted against grasshoppers and locusts in Africa in 1985 and 1986 by national and regional organizations and FAO with the generous support of donors had been largely successful. It noted, however, that the threat posed by these pests and others, such as army worm and quelea quelea, remained and urged that national and regional organizations be strengthened to counter it. The Council was informed that FAO was preparing plant protection action programmes for Africa and that technical and donor meetings would be taking place in the coming months. The Council adopted the following resolution:
MIGRATORY PEST CONTROL
Noting the dramatic increase in grasshopper and locust activity in many parts of Africa and the threat that these pests pose to crops and to the goal of food self-sufficiency,
Aware of the actions undertaken by the governments concerned with the assistance of FAO and the international donor community to limit the damage of. such pests,
Recalling the discussions at the Forty-first Session of the United Nations General Assembly and the global appeal launched by the Secretary-General of the United Nations for further assistance to the international campaign organized and coordinated by FAO,
Taking into account that food production in Africa is under continuing threat from various pests,
1. Thanks the Director-General of FAO for his early and repeated warning of the impending dangers of grasshopper and locust invasions; for his steps to promote the speedy mobilization of internal and external resources to meet the threat; and for the creation of the Emergency Centre for Locust Operations (ECLO) which permitted FAO to expedite the purchase of equipment and supplies and to coordinate the overall campaign in Africa;
2. Expresses its appreciation to the international donor community for its very generous and timely response to the appeal for assistance;
3. Appeals to the countries affected and to the international community to remain alert to future needs; to pursue the fight against grasshopper and locust infestations; and to prepare and support the necessary plans to strengthen national and regional migratory pest control facilities, and to maintain their operational character;
4. Calls upon the Director-General of FAO to continue to mobilize appropriate international support for emergency measures as and when required; to strengthen FAO’s coordinating role in migratory pest control and plant protection; and to initiate, in consultation with governments and the other international organizations concerned, improved long-term arrangements for migratory pest control in Africa;
5. Recommends that African Governments give high priority to development programmes designed to address the requirements of migratory control and plant protection.
26. The Council stressed the important role that fisheries played in human nutrition, particularly in some countries. While the global catch had risen in recent years mainly as a result of coastal states exploiting the fishery resources within their newly acquired 200-mile zone of jurisdiction, there was a natural limit to the catch that the global stock of marine fish could support. Greater emphasis would have to be placed on the reduction of post-harvest losses, the development of aquaculture and the exploitation of unconventional species.
27. Recalling the vital role of forestry as a source of fuel for poor communities, and in its environmental functions, the Council called for more attention to be given to the forestry sector in the documents provided. It reiterated its support for the five-point Tropical Forestry Action Plan which was adopted by the FAO Committee on Forest Development in the Tropics in May 1985. Stressing the importance of international cooperation in promoting the conservation of and investment in forests in developing countries, the Council welcomed the recent formal establishment of the International Tropical Timber Organization with functions that included the. funding of research and development activities and the provision of market information.
28. The Council noted with concern the environmental consequences of the nuclear accident that occurred at Chernobyl in April 1986 and urged the setting of internationally-agreed standards regarding the radio-nuclide contamination of food. In some cases, the absence of such standards following this accident had been a barrier to agricultural trade. The Council was informed that the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear and Biotechnology Applications in Food and Agriculture had recently opened a new laboratory for the training of plant and soil scientists in this area. Such activities permitted the transfer of advanced technologies to developing countries. Apart from FAO and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and other donors including Poland , United States of America and Canada , Austria would provide an amount of US$ 750,000 for the laboratory within the next three years. In addition, the United States of America was considering joining Austria in co-sponsoring a new training centre for scientists in the developing countries.
29. The Council welcomed the breaking of new ground in the document entitled the State of Food and Agriculture 1986, which presented a description and analysis of agricultural development financing. It noted with interest the important role that private and, particularly, rural savings played in financing agricultural activities, and the relative significance of implicit and explicit taxation policies in shaping agricultural and rural development. It looked forward to the completed chapter on this topic in the published version of this document.
30. The Council considered the report of the Eleventh Session of. the Committee on World Food Security and endorsed its conclusions and recommendations.
31. The Council agreed with the Committee’s assessment of the current world food security situation and short-term outlook. While noting the increase in global production of basic staple foods in 1985, it expressed deep concern that, despite this improvement, the per caput consumption of staple foods in about half of the low-income food-deficit countries had declined; that, even where average per caput consumption had risen, there were still large numbers of severely undernourished people; and that nutritional levels of the poor in both urban and rural areas were seriously deteriorating in many countries, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean. In this connection, it noted that matters related to food security in Latin America and the Caribbean were discussed during the Nineteenth FAO Regional Conference and that a request had been made for FAO to carry out a study on the long-term development of food and agriculture in the region in the context of the overall economic situation, in close association with concerned regional and sub-regional organizations.
32. Noting that an important aim of the broadened concept of world food security was to secure access to available food supplies on the part of those who need them, the Council urged that all appropriate measures be taken to improve access to food by the poor. In this connection, the Council stressed in particular the need for improving the purchasing power of the poorer strata of the population by raising the productivity of the small farmers and by increasing the employment opportunities especially in rural areas. It noted the information provided by some members on the programmes that had been implemented in their countries to improve access to food by the poor. The Council was informed that a paper on the subject of improving access to food would be presented to the CFS at its Thirteenth Session in 1988.
33. In view of the general recognition of the role of agricultural inputs in achieving greater levels of food security, some members suggested that agricultural inputs be explicitly included as part of the broadened concept of food security.
34. The Council expressed concern that in spite of a sharp decline of international cereal prices in dollar terms, many developing countries were not in a position to take full advantage of this situation, owing to declining prices of their export products, the large burden of debt and debt-servicing charges, and in a number of instances, declines in official external assistance. Concern was expressed that, due to structural weaknesses and barriers to trade, many developing countries were unable to rely on commercial imports to satisfy their food requirements. The weakness of world import demand, the continuing decline in export prices and the protectionist policies of several developed countries severely restricted their possibilities of generating export earnings. A relatively large number of members indicated that they regretted the practices of some developed countries of using resources by way of subsidies first to produce and then to dispose of surpluses on the world market.
35. The Council stressed that improved access to food imports by developing countries depended significantly on improvements in the international economic and trading environment. It recommended that all countries consider action to improve this environment so as to permit greater reliance on trade for strengthening food security. In this context, the Council welcomed the inclusion of agriculture within the mandate of the new round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and hoped that the negotiations would result in improvements in the trading environment for agricultural commodities.
36. The Council noted the scope for expansion of trade among developing countries, particularly in food commodities like rice, pulses, vegetable oils and coarse grains. It recommended that efforts be made to exploit such opportunities for trade expansion by reducing trade barriers and other constraints and, within the framework of mutual cooperation, to improve food security. The Council was informed that the Secretariat study on possibilities for expanding trade among developing countries was at an advanced stage and that this subject would be discussed by the Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP) at its next Session in October 1987.
37. As regards the medium-term food outlook, the Council noted, on the basis of a review presented to the Committee by the Secretariat, that while the aggregate cereal production to 1990 was projected to grow faster than demand, and supplies of cereals were expected to be ample at the global level, the per caput food supplies of basic foodstuffs in developing countries were expected to register only a marginal improvement, particularly in Africa. Further, foreign exchange constraints would make it very difficult to fill the domestic demand gap by importing on commercial terms, despite the projected low prices of cereals in international markets. In many cases, therefore, many developing countries would continue to need substantial quantities of food aid to help meet consumption requirements even in years of normal crop conditions.
38. The Council reiterated that the achievement of national food security depended crucially on increasing food production and productivity, through, inter alia, the provision of price incentives, inputs, training and adequate transport and marketing facilities. It stressed that most food importing developing countries would need to intensify efforts to raise domestic food production by according higher priority to the food and agriculture sector in their development policies. In order to supplement national efforts, the need for increased international assistance in providing farm inputs and in developing infrastructure was also emphasized.
39. The Council welcomed the achievements made by several countries in increasing food production. However, the Council expressed concern that lack of adequate storage and transport infrastructure as well as of export opportunities had led to the accummulation of surpluses in a number of developing countries, which were adversely affecting producers’ incentives. In this connection it urged donor countries to consider increasing their use of triangular transactions to utilize surpluses in some developing countries to meet deficits in some other developing countries. It was recognized that developing country food surpluses could also be used to set up regional and sub-regional food reserves, where technically and economically feasible.
40. The Council emphasized the important role of roots, tubers and fruit in general, as well as other traditional staple foods in production and consumption patterns, and in contributing to food security in many developing countries. It noted that in sub-Saharan Africa , roots, tubers and plantains were well suited to the agro-climatic conditions and were particularly appropriate for cultivation by small farmers, and could, when suitably combined with other foods, contribute to a well-balanced diet and improve stability of supplies. The Council stressed the potential contribution of these indigenous crops to food security in other regions, particularly the Latin America and Caribbean region, and the Pacific region, where they also formed an important part of the diet. In this connection, the Council emphasized that in carrying out the study requested by the Nineteenth Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean , due attention should be paid to the potential contribution of traditional foods to food security in the region.
41. The Council noted that the Committee had requested the Secretariat to undertake a further analysis of the proposal for prepositioning stocks to expedite the delivery of food aid, in order to quantify more precisely, on the basis of recent experience, the time taken at the various stages of the response. process and the benefits that could be obtained from prepositioning stocks. In this connection it was stressed that consideration of the proposal to preposition stocks should include all developing regions vulnerable to natural disasters, including Latin American and Caribbean countries. The Council emphasized that such an analysis should also review the contribution made by alternative arrangements and mechanisms used by donors to reduce delays. It was also stressed that the advantages that could flow from prepositioning stocks needed to be compared with the timesaving that could result from improving port handling, transport, and logistics within the recipient countries. The Council recognized that there was a need for complementary action by both donors and recipients as regards expediting delivery of emergency food aid to ports and improving the internal handling and distribution of such aid within recipient countries, in order to minimize delays in the delivery of emergency aid to the final beneficiaries. The Council noted that a study on Donors’ Administrative Procedures for Delivery of Emergency Food Aid would be considered by the Committee at its Twelfth Session and that the Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes (CFA) had been requested to consider the need for upgrading internal transport and storage infrastructure in recipient countries at a future meeting.
42. The Council agreed that the establishment of national preparedness plans was an essential measure at national level to ensure stability of food supplies and to cope with food emergencies. It emphasized that the effectiveness of national preparedness plans depended heavily on the level of the government’s commitment and availability of resources. It also stressed the need for training people to cope with food emergencies. The Council welcomed FAO’s role in strengthening national early warning systems and other relevant areas of preparedness planning in developing countries, and stressed the need for cooperation between FAO, other international organizations and donors, in providing technical and financial assistance to developing countries in this field.
43. The Council reiterated its general support for the field work carried out by FAO, under the Food Security Assistance Scheme (FSAS). It stressed that FSAS activities should be an integral part of the broader framework of food security development assistance to recipient countries by all donors, including bilateral and multilateral organizations. In this context, the Council noted that the FSAS was one of the Special Action Programmes which was currently being evaluated by a team of external consultants, and that the evaluation report would be submitted in conjunction with the Review of the Regular Programme to the Programme Committee, the Council and the Conference in 1987.
1 CL 90/2; CL 90/2-Sup.1; CL 90/PV/2; CL 90/PV/3-Rev.1; CL 90/PV/4; CL 90/PV/5; CL 90/PV/18.
3Six members entered reservations on the reference to one country by name in this paragraph.
4 CL 90/10; CL 90/PV/14; CL 90/PV/19.