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Current World Food Situation 1

17. The Council reviewed the world and regional food situation on the basis of the Director-General’s report, Current World Food Situation and its supplement. It generally endorsed the assessments and conclusions of these documents, as complemented by the Director-General’s opening statement.

18. The Council underlined the complex interrelationship between global and regional economic growth and progress in the food and agricultural sector. World income growth was being maintained at only very modest rates and was accompanied by a widening gap in per caput incomes between developed and developing countries as well as between high and low income groups within many countries. Many developing countries faced crippling foreign debt burdens, net outflows of capital, deteriorating terms of trade and rising tariff and non-tariff barriers to their exports. Low market prices for agricultural products were leading to reduced levels of investment that jeopardized the future potential for increased output; slow economic growth depressed the demand for agricultural products, including food, leading, in turn, to lower prices and an increase in malnutrition; depleted foreign exchange earnings coupled with heavy debt-servicing burdens reduced the ability of many low-income food-deficit countries to import food and essential inputs.

19. The Council expressed grave concern about the deteriorating situation in international markets for agricultural commodities and its adverse impact on export earnings of developing countries. The Council emphasized that serious imbalances had occurred in many of these markets, protectionism in agricultural trade had increased, surpluses of some commodities had accumulated further, efforts to reduce burdensome stocks had led to serious distortions in market prices, and budgetary costs of farm subsidies had escalated to record levels. It also stressed that the efforts of many developing countries to service their foreign debts and restore economic growth had been frustrated by excessively low prices for their export commodities, reduced access to markets, especially those of developed countries, for their agricultural export products and by a further deterioration in their terms of trade.

20. The Council therefore noted with appreciation the proposals which had been made by several groups of countries to improve conditions of world trade in agriculture. In this connection, members drew particular attention to recent policy statements on objectives which had been issued in May 1987 by the fourteen developed and developing countries which had formed the “Cairns Group” with the aim of liberalizing agricultural trade; in April 1987 by the Group of 77 in its preparations for the forthcoming Seventh Session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); In May 1987 by the Council of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which had agreed, at Ministerial level, on a set of principles and commitments to achieve a concerted reform of agricultural policies, to be implemented in a balanced manner and to include a progressive reduction of assistance to and protection of agriculture; and in June 1987 by the Heads of State and Government of seven major industrialized countries meeting at Venice, which had endorsed the OECD Ministerial Agreement.

21. The Council agreed that the Uruguay Round of GATT Multilateral Trade Negotiations (MTNs) launched in 1986 provided the framework to give effect to agreed principles concerning the improvement of conditions of world trade and particularly world agricultural trade. With regard to the issues involved, the Council emphasized that the negotiations should take into account all policy measures which adversely affected agricultural trade; and should lead to strengthened and more effective GATT rules and disciplines, and improved market access and reduced import barriers, so as to ensure greater liberalization of trade in agriculture. The Council also agreed that improvement of the agricultural trade environment rested inter alia upon the willingness of governments to avoid disruption of world markets in the course of containment or reduction of surplus stocks of farm products and, fundamentally, to correct domestic agricultural policies which distorted international trade. The Council stressed that the principle of differential and more favourable treatment for developing countries, as embodied in the Ministerial Declaration on the Uruguay Round, should be taken into account in negotiations on agriculture. The Council acknowledged that the Uruguay Round was an exceptional opportunity which should not be missed and that the success of the negotiations would depend to a large extent on an improvement in the world economic environment, particularly the alleviation of the debt problem.

22. The Council, recalling its decision at its Ninetieth Session, urged that FAO contribute to the MTNs where they impinged on agricultural trade. Many members emphasized that FAO should participate actively in the Uruguay Round, contributing its experience and knowledge, particularly by providing technical assistance to developing countries participating in the negotiations. Other members emphasized that FAO should not, however, be directly involved in the negotiating process.

23. The Council held a guardedly optimistic view of current trends in food production. Growth in production in the last two years had been sustained at levels exceeding population growth. Production in some surplus developed countries had been restrained while that of developing countries had been broadly maintained. There were major divergences in developing country regions, however, and the setback in food production in Latin America was of serious concern in that it could lead to an emerging food crisis reminiscent of that which had afflicted Africa recently. The welcome recovery in Africa was only a temporary relief given the difficult external economic environment, the slow transfer of resources to support the United Nations Programme of Action for African Economic Recovery and Development 1986-1990 (UN/PAAERD) and the vagaries of Africa’s climate.

24. The Council noted the continued threat posed by locusts and grasshoppers to Africa’s food production, commended FAO for the prompt action it had taken to mount and coordinate campaigns to control these pests, and thanked donors for their support. It further noted that increased fishery production, with due regard to the efficient management of stocks, could make a major contribution to improved nutrition. In particular, aquaculture could be further developed and FAO was requested to step up technical assistance in this area.

25. The Council deplored the continuation of the paradoxical situation whereby massive stocks of food coexisted with growing malnutrition and widespread deprivation. While average dietary energy supplies (DES) had continued to increase in some countries, there were many more countries where declines in DES had taken place. The Council urged that greater attention be given to the distributional aspects of food to ensure an adequate access of food by all.

26. The Council agreed on the interdependence of economic growth, food production and improved nutrition. In order to achieve these objectives it was necessary to adopt measures for expanding food production and improving the external economic environment

27. The domestic food and agricultural policies of developing countries were crucial in maintaining the momentum of food and agricultural production and it was agreed that the internal efforts of these countries should be accompanied by adequate technical and financial assistance and changes in international trade policies. The Council recalled the commitment to domestic policy reform that underlay Africa’s Priority Programme for Economic Recovery, 1986-90 (APPER). In this regard, training in analytical capability for dealing with policy issues was needed, as well as training of farmers in such skills as farm management, areas in which FAO had a key role to play.

28. The external economic environment should promote fairer and more equitable trading relations, relief of the foreign debt burden, and the reversal of the outflow of capital from developing countries. In this regard, many countries stated that only a new international economic order could effectively slow down the spread of hunger and economic deterioration In the majority of developing countries. The Council viewed with concern the stagnating levels of official commitments of external assistance to agriculture (OCA), and particularly the declining levels of concessional commitments. It appealed to donor countries to step up their commitments, such as those connected with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and in particular those intended for its Special Programme for Africa (US$ 300 million). The Council was informed by some donor countries of their decisions or intentions to increase official development assistance either bilaterally or through their support to multilateral agencies and financing institutions.

29. The Council noting with satisfaction the achievement of IFAD in alleviating hunger, poverty, and malnutrition, called upon the industrialized countries to make a greater effort for increased participation in IFAD’s Third Replenishment and urged other contributors to the Fund in a position to do so to make additional efforts to contribute to the resources of the Fund with a view to ensuring the best possible level of replenishment while preserving the institution and its unique structure.

30. The Council also appealed urgently to the international community, particularly to the donor countries which had supported IFAD’s Special Programme for African Countries Affected by Drought and Desertification, to contribute effectively to the programme so as to enable it to achieve at the earliest possible date its target of US$ 300 million as a further tangible sign of their support for the United Nations Programme of Action for African Economic Recovery and Development 1986-1990.

31. The Council welcomed FAO’s initiatives in mounting longer-term action-oriented studies of food and agricultural problems and issues in Africa and the Latin American and Caribbean regions. The study “African Agriculture: The Next 25 Years” provided guidelines for the rehabilitation, recovery and future progress of Africa’s agricultural sector. The Council urged that the similar study currently under way for Latin America and the Caribbean should also lead to guidelines based on updated indicators for the future development of the key agricultural sector and thus to an FAO action plan for the region.

32. Pursuant to the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 41/199, the Council recommended to the Conference that a study be carried out on the effects of the apartheid policy of South Africa, on the food situation and agricultural development In southern Africa. The Council also recommended that FAO update the work already carried out with the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia on food security in the occupied Arab territories.

Report of the Twelfth Session of the Committee on World Food Security (Rome, 8-15 April 1987)2

33. The Council considered the report of the Twelfth Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and endorsed its conclusions and recommendations.

34. The Council endorsed the Committee’s analysis of the world food security situation and agreed that the fundamental food security problem was not so much the availability of food, but lack of access to food by the hungry and malnourished. It expressed deep concern that despite abundant supplies at the global level and a more or less substantial increase in food production in some developing countries, the number of millions of people that remained undernourished continued to increase. The Council agreed that attainment of long-term food security was a problem not only of ensuring adequate aggregate food production but also of alleviating poverty. It underlined the urgent need for appropriate long-term national policies and measures for increasing food production, creating employment and raising incomes especially for the poorest people.

35. The Council stressed that the food security situation in many food- deficit developing countries was also adversely affected by an unfavourable external environment. It recognized that the agricultural policies of developed countries affected developments in world trade and thus were of crucial importance for the success of the efforts of developing countries for their economic development and to improve food security through raising food production and improving access to food. The Council expressed its deep concern about the severe constraints on such efforts caused by the heavy burden of external debt, inadequate external capital flows, depressed terms of trade and widespread protectionism, particularly in developed countries, which adversely affected the profitability of farmers in developing countries. The Council emphasized the need to increase the flow of technical and financial assistance to developing countries to supplement their efforts to strengthen food security.

36. The Council agreed on the need for progressive elimination of protectionist policies. It welcomed the Uruguay Round of new multilateral trade negotiations which offered a unique opportunity to address constructively the problems facing international trade. The Council stressed that a multilateral approach to agricultural trade liberalization constituted the most satisfactory mechanism to make progress in this area and called on all countries to demonstrate the necessary political will to achieve this goal.

37. Several members called for a major reform of international trading relations, and emphasized the need for a new international economic order.

38. A few members were of the view that, in order to encourage domestic production for food security reasons, the agricultural sector in some countries required a reasonable degree of protection, taking care, however, that such protection did not lead to surpluses.

39. Many members referred to the destabilization caused by the apartheid policy of South Africa which had seriously undermined the food security of the frontline states in the southern African region. The Council emphasized the need to support these states in their efforts to achieve food security.

40. The Council stated that world and national food security could only be achieved in a climate of peace, mutual respect, stability and international cooperation, and also reaffirmed that food should not be used as a political weapon 3 4. Many members urged that expenditure on armaments be cut in order to finance socially desirable programmes.

41. The Council expressed concern about the serious difficulties created by cereal surpluses in some developing countries. In this connection it emphasized the need for encouraging triangular transactions and swap arrangements, despite the complexities involved. The Council also noted that the problem of cereal surpluses in those developing countries was aggravated by the lack of storage, transport, and handling facilities to maintain stocks and to distribute food to deficit areas. The Council recalled the request made by the Committee at its Eleventh Session, for the Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes (CFA) to consider the need to upgrade internal transport and storage infrastructure in developing countries and requested CFA to take up this subject at a future session.

42. The Council generally agreed on the need to further accelerate the response to food emergencies. It recognized that the question of improving the timeliness of emergency food aid had been considered by the CFA in the past. It, therefore, requested CFA to consider this subject at a future session, taking into account the conclusions of the Committee on World Food Security on this issue at both its Eleventh and Twelfth Sessions. With regard to non-emergency food aid flows it further agreed that, in order to avoid the possible negative effects of such food aid, it should be linked to national development programmes.

43. The Council appreciated the support given by the international community for the successful grasshopper and locust control campaign for 1986 in Africa, which was coordinated by FAO, and hoped that an adequate response would be forthcoming for the 1987 campaign.

44. The Council emphasized the important role played by women in food security and the efforts that need to be made to improve their position and to secure their economic access to food supplies.

45. The Council agreed on the importance of regional and sub-regional cooperation among developing countries to strengthen their food security and emphasized the importance of FAO’s support to such cooperative activities.

46. Many members stressed the importance of the objectives and the recommendations of the World Food Security Compact, and the need for action to implement them at all levels.

47. The Council agreed that roots, tubers and plantains could make an important contribution to food security in both Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Pacific, particularly in the subsistence economies. It stressed that development work on the production, processing and consumption of roots, tubers and plantains should not be undertaken in isolation but within a broader perspective including other traditional staple foods such as cereals and bananas. It was suggested that FAO should help interested countries with cost/benefit studies of alternative crop production possibilities and with advice regarding improved policies, especially pricing domestically produced and imported cereals.

48. The Council recognized the determining role played by TNCs (transnational corporations) in agricultural production, marketing of food and agricultural products, research and transfer of technology in many countries. The Council generally agreed that it was essential for developing countries to adopt clear long-term policies concerning foreign investment and the precise contribution sought from transnational corporations and the parameters of their operations so as to agree on mutual benefits and avoid possible negative effects. It recognized that in their dealings with TNCs some host countries needed assistance from multilateral agencies and particularly of expert institutions such as the United Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations (UNCTC). Many members urged FAO to support the developing countries in the formulation of their foreign investment policies, in the evaluation of TNC projects, and in the strengthening of their monitoring and follow-up systems applicable to TNCs in the sector of food and agriculture. Many members urged the Director-General, given the importance of such TNCs, to continue working on this matter and to concentrate on the cases of primary commodities at the national and regional levels. Some members however stated that the subject of TNCs was being covered in-depth on a continuing basis in the United Nations Centre for Transnational Corporations which was the specialized forum for this subject within the UN System.

49. The Council welcomed the good progress made during the current biennium in strengthening the Global Information and Early Warning System, (GIEWS) and expressed its strong support for the work of the System which it considered should continue to be accorded high priority and should be expanded to include livestock and animal health problems. While appreciating that substantial progress had been made with the establishment and strengthening of national early warning systems in vulnerable countries, the Council emphasized that there remained many countries which did not have effective systems in place. It recommended that, where requested, FAO assistance should be extended to such countries, for which purpose additional external financial support should be mobilized.

50. The Council recalled that in accordance with Rule XXXIII-1 of the General Rules of the Organization, membership of the Committee was open to all Member Nations of the Organization and all Member States of the United Nations. It therefore requested the Director-General to approach those Member States of the United Nations which were not Member Nations of the Organization with a view to encouraging them to join the Committee and attend its future sessions.

51. The Council agreed that the subject of food security was of vital importance. A few members considered that in view of the resource constraint and to avoid duplication of discussion in various FAO bodies, the Committee on World Food Security should meet only once in a biennium. They suggested that the periodicity of the CFS meetings should be considered by the Conference. Many members, however, stressed that the Committee on World Food Security should continue to meet annually.

1 CL 91/2; CL 91/2 - Sup. 1; CL 91/PV/1; CL 91/PV/2; CL 91/PV/3; CL 91/PV/18; CL 91/PV/19.

2 CL 91/10; CL 91/PV/4; CL 91/PV/5; CL 91/PV/19.

3 The delegation of the United States of America reserved its position and stated that the United States believed that efforts toward greater world food security should also encompass more open and stable trade flows and assurance of food supplies. It also stated that the United States believed that governments should endeavour to guarantee their people adequate food, and in this context, subscribed to the general principle that food should not be used as an instrument of political pressure.

4 The delegations of Nicaragua and Cuba rejected the content of the reservation of the United States of America because they considered it was a serious distortion of the correct interpretation of the principle that food should not be used as a political weapon.

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