11. The Council examined the world and regional food and agricultural situation on the basis of the Director-General’s Statement and his Report, State of State Food and Agriculture 1988 and its supplement, and concurred with these assessments.
12. The Council noted with concern that the 1980s would become a lost decade for most developing countries in terms of socio-economic progress. The relatively robust global economic performance of recent years was primarily due to the growth in the more industrialized countries, while the low income countries had hardly benefitted. The burden of external debt and the capital outflows from developing debtor countries continued to be a major constraint to the resumption of economic growth in many of them, particularly those in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. The Council, in general, urged that developing countries, especially those undertaking economic adjustments, be assisted through significant concessions on debt to make possible the resumption of their economic growth and social improvement. It further emphasized that the major industrialized countries should endeavour to correct their own structural imbalances that were having a negative impact on the international economic environment.
13. The Council recognized that in the experience of developing countries structural adjustment programmes often resulted in serious social costs, and curtailed imports that impeded future growth prospects, as also reported in many studies. Noting the importance of the agricultural sector in many countries undertaking structural adjustment programmes, the Council, in general, supported the Director-General’s proposal that governments which so desired should insist for FAO to be associated with the formulation of new food and agriculture policy guidelines as part of the structural adjustment process. The Council noted that FAO technical expertise could indeed be valuable in this area and stressed the importance of FAO working closely with other multilateral and bilateral organizations to support governments requesting assistance in their economic adjustment efforts.
14. The Council expressed concern over the continued high level of protectionism in agriculture. It drew attention to recent studies that had underlined the adverse impact of such protectionism on economic growth, especially in developing and also in developed countries. Many members referred to measures taken to adjust their agricultural policies to permit a larger role for market signals in determining domestic production and in endeavouring to contribute to improvement and stabilization of markets. In this connection, some developing countries pointed out the difficulties which they encountered in organizing their policies owing to the climatic and ecological conditions prevailing in their countries, coupled with an inadequate and adverse international economic environment. The Council renewed its call for all efforts to be made to achieve the objectives of the Ministerial Declaration on the Uruguay Round, particularly in agriculture and as regards tropical products, and urged all concerned parties to ensure that significant progress be achieved at the forthcoming mid-term review in Montreal of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations (MTN). Many members drew attention to the proposals which they had made in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations and the results of the Cairns Group (Cairns Group. of Agricultural Fair Trading Countries) meeting held in Budapest from 10 to 12 November 1988. The Council was informed of the measures decided by the European Economic Community in the framework of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as well as of the results obtained in this context. Many members also referred to the need for short-term measures for immediate implementation and commitments regarding standstill and rollback of protectionist measures, already expressed in the Ministerial Declaration on the Uruguay Round. The Council also urged an early and successful conclusion of on-going negotiations, including those on tropical products and specific action relating to the principle of special and differential treatment for developing countries in line with the objectives and principles of the Ministerial Declaration at Punta del Este.
15. The Council noted with concern that world food production had failed to increase during the past two years. Cereal stocks, including those in developing countries, had been considerably depleted and by the end of 1988/89 season would decline to a level considered by FAQ to be below the minimum of 17 to 18 percent of annual consumption required for world food security. Food prices had risen, making it difficult for many foreign exchange constrained net-food importing countries to import food needed to maintain consumption levels, and also resulting in a possible loss of markets for exporting countries.
16. The Council also noted that the volume of food aid was expected to decline, It urged donors to address in appropriate fora the issue of designing a system for maintaining levels of food aid shipments in situations of rising prices. The point was made that food should not be used as an instrument of political pressure.
17. Apart from unusually adverse weather, particularly in North America, the overall decline in agricultural production in the developed countries was also due to policy measures such as land set aside programmes aimed at reducing production, and to low world prices in previous years. Higher prices, reduced participation in land set aside programmes and the resumption of more normal weather conditions, could be expected to alleviate this situation. The Council invited developed countries to take full account of the impact their policies had on agricultural and rural development in developing countries, At the same time, it was stressed that lower costs for agricultural programmes due to higher world prices did not minimize the urgency of agricultural policy reforms to reduce protectionism and liberalize agricultural trade.
18. The Council noted that while food production in the developing countries had recovered slightly in 1988, the recovery had been unevenly distributed among regions and countries. The strong recovery in production in Asia and the moderate one in Africa was welcomed, but more than half of the developing countries recorded declines in per caput production in 1988. The limited agricultural production increase for 1988 had also been particularly disappointing in the Latin America and Caribbean region The Council noted with particular concern that 1988 had been characterized by a wide range of natural disasters such as droughts, floods and tropical storms, as well as by the increased incidence of locusts. It appealed for continued support to be given to those countries that had suffered from such disasters, The Council also urged that International Emergency Food Reserve (IEFR) resources, which were almost exhausted, be urgently replenished, as requested by the Director-General.
19. The Council listened with interest to a statement by the Executive Director of the World Food Council. He drew attention to the evidence of widespread rising poverty and malnutrition in the developing world, and highlighted the Cyprus Initiative Against Hunger in the World, adopted at the Fourteenth Ministerial Session of the World Food Council held in Nicosia. The Council, welcoming the Cyprus Initiative, noted that a Consu1tative Group formed to develop this initiative was to convene its first session shortly. It looked forward to the development of a practical and realistic course of action to combat hunger more effectively and trusted that the experience of FAO would be drawn upon in this work.
20. The Council underlined that while initiatives and actions designed to reduce hunger, alleviate rural poverty and promote agricultural and rural development were primarily the responsibility of the developing countries themselves, the close cooperation and support of the developed countries were also essential, Within this context, the Council welcomed FAO’s study on the Potentials for Agricultural and Rural Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, presented at the Twentieth FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean (Recife, Brazil, 2-6 October 1988), and called attention to the Declaration of Recife and the Regional Plan of Action.
21. Recalling the essential role of technology in agricultural development, the Council stressed its important effect on markets. It agreed that environmental issues were closely intertwined with development policies and practices; and consequently environmental goals and actions needed to be defined in relation to development objectives and policies. The Council underlined the important role of forestry in environmentally sound land use practices. Drawing attention to the Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP), it highlighted the vital need for the local population to be involved in decisions governing the use of natural resources and those with implications for the environment. Such considerations also were of paramount importance in the fishery sector, where the recent production increases would not be sustainable without greater recourse to aquaculture development. It encouraged FAO to step up its technical assistance in the fishery sector.
22. The Council welcomed the
growth in agricultural trade in 1987 against a background of vigorous growth in
global merchandise trade. Trade in fishery and, to a lesser extent, forestry
products, had been particularly dynamic. It noted, however, that the benefits
of this expansion had accrued mainly in developed countries and, among
developing countries, was largely limited to some Asian countries. It noted
with concern that agricultural export earnings had declined in a majority of
developing countries primarily because of depressed prices. As a consequence,
the terms of trade of developing countries’ agricultural exports had
deteriorated in 1987, particularly in Africa and in Latin America and the
23. The Council noted that flows of external assistance to agriculture had been erratic in recent years. Concessional multilateral commitments had risen significantly in 1987, but only in relation to the low level of the previous year. In real terms, such commitments had shown little growth in 1987, compared to 1984-86. At the same time, non-concessional commitments had fallen sharply in 1987 from their unusually high level of 1986. The Council, recalling that the major donor countries had enjoyed a protracted period of economic growth and low commodity prices that had greatly contributed to the curtailment of inflation, requested that efforts be reinforced to enhance flows of development assistance to the rural sector, particularly in low-income countries. In this regard, the Council particularly emphasized that the success of the United Nations Programme of Action for African Economic Recovery and Development 1986-1990 (PAAERD), required in particular an improvement in external economic conditions and the implementation of appropriate policies by the hard-pressed African countries themselves.
24. The Council was informed of the changes in the timing and presentation of the documents comprising The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA), as had been discussed and approved at the Fifty-fifth Session of the Programme Committee (Rome, 19-21 September 1988). In welcoming these changes which would make the SOFA a more attractive, readable and timely publication, it noted that they would be introduced in 1989 for the Twenty-fifth Session of the FAO Conference. The Council also welcomed that the special chapter of SOFA 1988 would be on natural resource management and sustainable development, and was informed that the chapter currently being prepared would incorporate points raised in the Council’s discussions.
25. The Council noted with great concern the intensification of the Desert Locust Plague as presented in the Council document and through the up-dated information provided by the Secretariat. The Council noted that the plague was affecting many countries in the traditional Desert Locust invasion area and had now spread over North-West Africa, the Sahelian Zone of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, part of the Near East and had even invaded the Islands. As a result of the intensive control campaigns undertaken, crop losses so far had been limited but this could rapidly change in the future as the current infestations were likely to become worse and spread further to other countries. Moreover, it was generally admitted that the plague would continue for at least another two to three years. Thus it would constitute a major threat for food security and for an effective implementation of agricultural development plans in the years to come.
26. The Council expressed satisfaction with the control actions taken by the countries concerned, by the international donor community and by FAO through its Emergency Centre for Locust Operations (ECLO). It noted that the current Desert Locust Control Campaign had already cast some US$ 200 million and that donor contributions amounted to US$ 120 million, including considerable assistance from the Organization’s Technical Cooperation Programme, and expressed gratitude for this generous support. It also drew attention to the assistance provided by countries in North-West Africa, the Near East and other developing countries to various countries affected. However, the Council also emphasized that current control efforts were inadequate to reduce the overall development of the plague and welcomed the initiatives for the establishment of an international control task force to eliminate large-scale Desert Locust populations in strategic areas. All possible resources and very substantial additional donor support would be required.
27. The Council expressed concern with the extensive use of pesticides in the control campaign. Although the need for this was recognized, it was stressed that new products should be evaluated and used. The criteria for the evaluation of new pesticides should include cost effectiveness and the minimization of environmental impact. The Council also emphasized the need to develop and introduce alternative methods of control, in particular biological control.
28. The Council emphasized the continued need for effective coordination of the various activities to be undertaken. It fully recognized the unique and central role of FAO in this matter and urged that maximum support be given to the Organization to implement this complex task. It noted that such coordination would require close collaboration with existing national and regional structures, the international donor community and other relevant organizations. The Council stressed the need for effective information distribution.
29. The Council stressed the need to take control actions in a timely, preferably preventive manner. Assistance should be provided, when possible, well in advance of locust invasions and hence the need for joint advance planning of the locust campaigns. In that respect, it recognized the difficulties encountered in view of the magnitude of the plague, the large number of countries involved and the great amount of resources needed. Various countries now affected had very limited experience and lacked the capabilities to deal with Desert Locust control operations.
30. While recognizing the importance of concentrating major efforts on the emergency control campaigns, the Council drew attention to the medium- and long-term needs. National and regional organizations and infrastructures should be strengthened to improve Desert Locust control, Research should be undertaken on matters such as improved monitoring and forecasting of Desert Locust populations, including bio-modelling and use of satellite data, environmental impact monitoring and improved chemical control. The Council stressed the importance of the effective use of meteorological data and noted the collaboration between ECLO and the National Meteorology Service of Algeria on this matter.
31. The Council noted that in addition to Desert locusts, the African migratory locust and the red locust continued to be a threat to agriculture in countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. The Council was informed about the specific needs of certain countries and regional organizations to improve their control capacity.
32. The Council also noted the recent session of the Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in the Eastern Region of its Distribution Area in Southwest Asia held in Teheran in November 1988.
33. The Council drew attention to the various recommendations on Desert Locust and grasshopper control included in a number of resolutions adopted in different international fora. Reference was made to resolutions by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) (Resolution 41/185 of December 1986), the Economic and Social Council (Resolution 1988/3 of May 1988), the Conference of Ministers of the Economic Commission for Africa (Resolution 1988/2 of April 1988), the Fifteenth FAO Regional Conference for Africa (Resolution 2/88), the Third Ministerial Conference on Food Security and Agricultural Development of the Ministers of the Islamic Conference, held in Islamabad in October 1988, and the International Conference on the Locust Peril held in Fez in October 1988.
34. These resolutions expressed appreciation for the international support received, appealed for further resources, recommended strengthening national and regional structures and highlighted the need for data collection, diffusion of information and research and training. In addition, the resolutions expressed strong support for activities undertaken by FAO.
35, The Council expressed its support for these resolutions. The resolutions demonstrated the international character of the locust problem, the need for institutional strengthening and increased control efforts, both at the national and international level, the importance of mobilizing resources by all parties concerned, and the need for close cooperation at all levels. Furthermore, the resolutions confirmed the central coordinating role and responsibility of FAO and the need to provide the Organization with the necessary resources for this task.
36. The Council considered the report of the Thirteenth Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and endorsed its conclusions and recommendations. The Council expressed concern that since the Thirteenth Session of the Committee the food security situation had worsened as cereal stocks fell below the minimum level considered necessary to safeguard food security resulting from declines in global cereal production for two years in succession. The Council noted that as a result of tighter supplies and higher prices in world grain markets, many low-income food-deficit countries could face difficulties in financing food imports in 1988-89 and called on donor countries to make all efforts to maintain the volume of food aid shipments.
37. The Council regretted that the per caput food consumption in many low-income food-deficit countries was at or below that of 15 years earlier, thus worsening the problem of hunger and under-nutrition. The Council underlined the necessity to reverse these unfavourable trends, and urged that the highest priority be accorded to the development of the food and agricultural sectors of the low-income food-deficit countries and to the formulation of a suitable policy famework in which to accomplish it. While noting that the primary responsibility for achieving national food security rested with the countries themselves, the Council requested the international community to support the efforts of developing countries with adequate technical and financial assistance. In this context, the Council recognized that sustained economic growth supported inter alia by adequate financing and growing and liberalized international trade was an indispensable precondition for improving food security, particularly in developing countries. The Council stressed the important role of regional and s cooperation in increasing food production and in achieving food security.
38. The Council expressed concern that the food security situation in many developing countries was severely affected by adverse external economic factors, particularly by restrictions on access to markets, the heavy burden of external debt servicing, low prices for export products, deteriorating terms of trade, as well as by the development of substitute products. It suggested that future documents assessing the food security situation should include more information on, inter alia, the negative consequences for food security of external debt and protectionism. The Council urged that appropriate action be taken to ensure that the debt service payments of developing countries did not hamper the development of the food and agricultural sectors and the performance of the overall economies of these countries. Many members emphasized the need to establish a new international economic order and to implement the World Food Security Compact.
39. The Council noted with concern the devastating impact of recent floods and hurricanes on food security and agricultural production in several countries, particularly Bangladesh. It reaffirmed the need for continued and increased assistance to countries affected by such natural disasters. The Council noted the holding of the Special Meeting on Assistance to Bangladesh convened by the UN Secretary-General in New York on 16 November 1988.
40. The Council expressed its concern that the protectionist policies adopted by a number of developed countries continued to be detrimental to global economic growth and food security. The Council urged concerted action to bring the cereals market into a better balance in the long-term interests of both producing and consuming countries, and to enhance export market access in order to improve the foreign exchange earning ability of developing countries. The Council expressed the hope that the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations would be successful in leading to increased discipline and greater liberalization of agricultural trade.
41. The Council noted that many developing countries were undertaking structural adjustment programmes. It recognized that these programmes could have a negative impact on food security, especially on the poor, and requested that special measures be taken to prevent or overcome such effects when and where they occurred. The Council requested the Secretariat to analyse the impact of structural adjustment programmes and to identify possible measures to avoid a negative impact on food security, especially on the poor. In this connection, it noted that in response to the Committee’s request, the Secretariat was carrying out an analysis of the effects of stabilization and structural adjustment programmes on food security for consideration by the Committee at its next session.
42. The Council stressed that improving access to food by the poor was of vital importance. It underlined the need for further research and analysis, especially for the development of specific indicators to identify the target groups, more precise measurements of the cost effectiveness and viability of different interventions, and in-depth case studies of different country experiences. It suggested that an exchange of views and experiences on measures to improve access to food at the regional level would be valuable.
43. The Council welcomed that the Committee had started considering national food security policies and programmes of selected countries. In this connection, it noted that case studies of Tanzania and Niger had been discussed by the Committee at its Thirteenth Session. The Council endorsed the decision of the Committee to continue to examine national food security case studies at its future sessions. It agreed with the Committee’s suggestion that future case studies should aim at providing an in-depth analysis of the reasons why certain policies had greater success than others, and should attempt to draw recommendations concerning domestic policy changes required, as well as external constraints affecting the implementation of domestic policies.
44. The Council was informed of efforts being made in the Latin American and Caribbean region to address the problem of poverty, which had worsened in recent years in the face of adverse external developments. It noted with satisfaction that an International Conference on Absolute Poverty had been held at the end of August 1988 in Cartagena, Colombia, which had made useful recommendations. The Council was also informed of decisions taken by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Organization of Islamic Conference in establishing regional food reserves to enhance food security for their member countries.
45. Some members referred to the role played by transnational corporations (TNCs) in agricultural production, marketing of food and agricultural products, research and transfer of technology in many countries, and suggested that regular assessments of their activities in the food and agricultural sector be carried out by the CFS. Some other members stated that this subject had been considered by the Committee at its Twelfth Session and as the role of transnational corporations was analysed on a continuing basis by the United Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations, there was no need for regular assessments of TNCs by FAO.
46. The Council noted the arrangements made to enable the Food Security Assistance Scheme (FSAS) to carry out its expanded mandate, in particular the widening of its terms of reference to reflect the broader concept of food security, the creation of an upgraded Steering Committee and the provision to establish Country Task Forces. There was general agreement that an enhanced policy advisory role for the FSAS in regard to the three elements embodied in the broader concept of food security would be an effective way for FAO to help countries in their efforts to strengthen food security. Several members stated that these arrangements would merit further examination during the ongoing review of FAO.
47. Many members stressed that in the formulation of domestic policies in developing countries the FSAS should also analyse the impact of the external economic factors, which affected the food security of developing countries. The need for FSAS to give greater attention to the elimination of food insecurity among the lowest income groups and the ECDC (Economic Cooperation among Developing Countries) and TCDC (Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries) activities in promoting food security was also underlined.
48. In view of the deterioration in the current world food security situation, the Council welcomed the decision of the Director-General in consultation with the Chairman, to convene the Fourteenth Session of the Committee in April 1989. Most members felt that, in view of the great importance of the subjects discussed by the Committee and the volatility of the world food security situation, the Committee should continue to hold annual sessions. Some members, while agreeing with the important role of the Committee in food security matters, felt that there was merit in considering the holding of only one session of the Committee in each bienium. These members felt that the savings realised could be usefully devoted to operational activities, and that, in those years when the Committee would not meet, an assessment document could be considered by the Committee on Agriculture (COAG) or circulated to the members of the CFS. Some of these members also suggested that, if a radical deterioration in the world food security situation were to occur, additional sessions of the Committee should be convened. It was also suggested that the question of the frequency of the Committee’s sessions could be considered by the Programme and Finance Committees.
1 CL 94/2; CL 94/2—Sup.1; CL 94/PV/3; CL 94/PV/4; CL 94/PV/5; CL 94/PV/l6; CL 94/PV/17.
2 CL 94/2-Sup.2; CL 94/PV/6; CL 94/PV/16; CL 94/PV/17.
3 CL 94/10; CL 94/PV/6; CL 94/PV/7; CL 94/PV/16; CL 94/PV/17.