Progress in implementation of the plan of action to strengthen world food security - re-appraisal of concepts and approaches
65. The Conference reviewed the progress made towards world food security and in particular the revised concept and approaches proposed by the Director-General and considered by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and the Council.
66. The Conference expressed satisfaction that there had been a number of positive developments in the implementation of the Plan of Action on World Food Security, but recognized that the overall progress had been limited.
67. The Conference endorsed the revised concept of world food security as adopted by the CFS, as viewed from a global perspective and in a broad institutional framework. Under this concept, 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. 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. The Conference noted with satisfaction that this concept which was endorsed by the Council at its Eighty-third Session, had been welcomed by the World Food Council at its Ninth Ministerial Session. The Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) at its Second Regular Session in 1983 had called for the widest possible implementation of the wider concept by the international community and appropriate bodies of the United Nations System.
68. The Conference agreed that action would be needed on a wide front including all factors that had a bearing on the capacity of both countries and people to produce or purchase food. This action should take the form of specific measures at national, regional and international levels.
69. The Conference recognized that in drawing up food security programmes it was necessary to cover all basic foodstuffs including roots, tubers, pulses, plantains and edible oils, as well as other essential foods, in addition to cereals.
70. The Conference recognized that the reduction of poverty through increasing rural employment, especially among the poor and the young, was a key element in combatting hunger and malnutrition. It agreed that full consideration should be given to nutritional considerations in formulating measures to improve access to supplies. Stress was also laid on the 'inks between food security and rural development and, where appropriate, agrarian reform.
71. The need for a New International Economic Order was stressed, and it was underlined that food security was essential for economic and social stability.
72. The Conference stressed that action at the national level was the foundation for improving food security. It underlined the need for governments of low-income food-deficit countries to accord high priority to food and agricultural production, an appropriate policy framework, and to allocate sufficient resources to this sector. In this connection, the Conference was informed of the wide-ranging measures being taken by many developing countries to promote food production, market stability and rural development, as well as to improve access to supplies. Overall, however, the results of these efforts had not been sufficient to meet the objectives of food security, particularly in Africa, partly because of persistent unfavourable weather conditions.
73. A few members thought that self-sufficiency in food would be of paramount importance in order to prevent food supplies being used as a political weapon.
74. The Conference agreed on the need for developing countries to evolve national food security programmes, systems or strategies extending to all aspects of food security and including, inter alia, policies, production, marketing and infrastructure, preparedness arrangements, prevention of food losses, nutritional and environmental aspects. Appropriate emphasis should be given to the role of youth and women in increasing food production.
75. The Conference stressed that greater importance should be given to traditional indigenous food crops in national food production planning so as to allow a better use of national resources. In this connection reference was made by some members to the activities of transnational corporations and their possible adverse effect on the consumption of traditional foods.
76. The Conference underlined the need to implement the measures contained in the Declaration of Principles and Programme of Action of WCARRD (World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development) in ensuring to all people access to food supplies.
77. The Conference emphasized the need for providing appropriate incentives, including price policies where appropriate, to encourage producers, particularly small and marginal farmers, to increase production in developing countries. The Conference also stressed the importance of supportive measures such as access to production factors, credit facilities, marketing institutions, development of infrastructure including storage and transport facilities as well as research, particularly on rainfed and irrigated crops, training and extension, without which price incentive policies might not be effective.
78. The Conference recognized the need for adequate external assistance to supplement the domestic resources of developing countries, and a number of members outlined the support which their governments were providing in the formulation and implementation of food strategies and programmes.
79. The Conference recognized that member governments, FAO, and other international organizations could provide considerable technical assistance to developing countries in the preparation and implementation of food security projects and programmes. In this connection, the Conference reaffirmed its support for the activities of the Food Security Assistance Scheme and the Programme for the Prevention of Food Losses. Some members suggested that FAO should consider decentralizing regular programme resources to the country level to enable it to strengthen its technical support to national food security programmes and policies. Other members considered that Regional Offices should be strengthened to this end.
80. Recognizing the serious physical, economic, social and institutional constraints to food production in low-income food-deficit countries in Africa, the Conference welcomed the special study of this grave problem which had been commenced by the CFS. It underlined the need to formulate appropriate remedial measures as a matter of urgency to address this long-term problem.
81. The Conference recognized that regional and sub-regional action could complement and support national efforts to strengthen food security through, for example, communications and information networks, Joint development projects, intra-regional trade arrangements, emergency commodity loans, food reserves, exchange of technology, and cooperation in training and research programmes. The Conference welcomed recent initiatives in this field including the establishment of the FAO, Regional Commission on Food Security for Asia and the Pacific, the Action Committee on Regional Food Security (CASAR) set up by the Latin American Economic System (SELA), and several programmes or projects undertaken by the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and SADCC (Southern African Development Coordination Conference) to support food security at sub-regional levels. It also welcomed the ECDC (Economic Cooperation between Developing Countries) meeting on food and agriculture to be held in Bucharest in 1984, and the attention given to cooperation on food security among members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
82. The Conference agreed that FAO should continue to give technical support to regional and sub-regional schemes, bearing in mind the need to ensure their economic feasibility.
83. The Conference agreed that a free and growing export trade was one of the important foundations for establishing food security. It was pointed out that food security problems were accentuated by strong protectionist pressures in agriculture. Many members stated that trade had been distorted not only by tariff and non-tariff barriers but also by the export subsidies applied to several agricultural products by developed countries.
84. Several members stressed the importance of arrangements for the stabilization of export earnings and for the preferential treatment of imports from developing countries.
85. The Conference underlined the need to reduce instability in the world food markets through concerted efforts among major exporting and importing countries. The Conference noted that the International Wheat Agreement had been extended in its existing form. The Conference called for the conclusion of a more effective agreement with price and stock clauses. It also expressed the hope that the negotiations for a new international sugar agreement would be successful.
86. In view of the growing food deficits and indebtedness and the worsening trade balances of many low-income countries, the Conference agreed that an adequate flow of food aid remained essential to strengthen food security. Food aid was necessary not only to alleviate periodic food shortages and malnutrition but also to promote food production and rural development. In this respect, possible undesirable effects on local food habits of recipient countries should be taken into consideration. In this connection, the Conference noted that the Food Aid Convention had been extended to 1986 at the existing level of 7.6 million tons of cereals, while the Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes had agreed that the FAO/WFP Secretariats' estimate of 20 million tons of cereals a year provided a useful indicator of requirements of food aid in 1985. Many members considered that the IEFR should be enlarged in view of the rising emergency requirements in low-income food-deficit countries.
87. Many members pointed out that the limited use which had been made of the extended IMF (International Monetary Fund) compensatory financing facility to offset temporary increases in cereal import costs indicated there was a need to liberalize the conditions of access to this new facility, and to widen its scope to cover a larger spectrum of agricultural commodities and inputs. Other members considered that the IMF was the appropriate forum for examining this question, and the Conference noted that the new facility was under review by the IMF Executive Board.
88. Some members further suggested that purchases of basic commodities and inputs under the IMF compensatory financing facility should be made on a priority basis from developing countries.
89. The Conference recognized that the Director-General had put forward in his report to the CFS a considerable number of wide-ranging proposals relating inter alia to a food security compact, food security action programme and food security fund for global action to strengthen food security, including possible measures by FAO. While there had been divergent views on several of the proposals, it was recognized that the proposals were of a preliminary nature and there was a general willingness to review them at future sessions of the CFS when they were presented in greater detail.
90. The Conference looked forward to the further consideration of the measures needed to improve world food security in conformity with the revised concept and agreed that greater emphasis should be given to proposals on which consensus appeared possible in the near future. This should not preclude the elaboration and discussion of other proposals which could be followed up in the CFS or other appropriate fore over the medium- and longer-term.
91. The Conference welcomed the Director-General's intention to convene in 1984 a symposium on new directions in thinking on world, regional and national food security issues, drawing on the knowledge of experts from non-UN organizations and individual researchers.
92. In view of the complexity and persistence of food security problems, there was wide support for a strengthening of the CFS within its existing mandate. The Conference urged all international organizations concerned with food issues to cooperate closely and to coordinate their activities, taking into account their respective mandates, in order to expedite progress towards food security.
93. The Conference adopted the following Resolution:
WORLD FOOD SECURITY
Recognizing that the world food security situation remains unsatisfactory and uncertain and expressing its serious concern in particular with the grave food position of Africa,
Recalling Resolution 3/79 of the Twentieth Session of the Conference which endorsed the Plan of Action on World Food Security,
Reaffirming the importance of the implementation of the measures enunciated in the Declaration of Principles and Programme of Action of WCARRD in securing to all people the access to the basic food they need,
Recognizing the urgent need to ensure stability in food supplies and prices through a better understanding among major exporting and importing countries,
Considering that the Council at its Eighty-third Session (June 1983) had endorsed the report and recommendations of the Eighth Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS),
Noting that the World Food Council at its Ninth Ministerial Session had welcomed the adoption by the Committee of a revised concept of world food security and that ECOSOC at its Second Regular Session of 1983 had called for the widest possible implementation of this revised concept of food security by the international community and by appropriate bodies in the UN system,
Having examined the report of the Director-General on Implementation of the Plan of Action on World Food Security: Re-appraisal of Concepts and Approaches,
1. Endorses the revised concept of world food security as adopted by the CFS and focussing on (i) ensuring production of adequate food supplies, (ii) maximizing stability in the flow of food supplies, and (iii) security of access to supplies on the part of all those who need them;
2. Recommends that governments take appropriate measures at national and regional levels and pursue appropriate measures at the global level in order to achieve these aims;
3. Calls on the governments of developing countries, particularly low-income food-deficit countries, where they have not yet done so:
(a) to give the highest possible priority to the food and agriculture sector and to design, adopt and implement national food security programmes as an integral part of overall development strategies, with a view to ensuring adequacy of, stability in and access to food supplies;
(b) to formulate and implement, as a part of the national food security programmes, appropriate pricing and marketing policies including supportive measures to assure stable and remunerative prices for producers and reasonable prices for consumers, especially low-income consumers;
(c) to facilitate access to food by taking measures to increase employment and incomes of the economically weaker sections of the population, in particular of the landless agricultural workers.
(a) to assist developing countries, especially low-income food-deficit countries, in their efforts to increase food production, to reduce still high food losses and to fight against hunger and malnutrition, and covering all basic foodstuffs, including cereals, roots, tubers, pulses and edible oils as well as other essential complementary foods;
(b) to provide to the maximum extent possible additional resources to food security activities including the Food Security Assistance Scheme, the Prevention of Food Losses (PFL) and other relevant FAO action programmes and enlarged bilateral assistance to food security;
(c) to take all possible steps to meet the food aid requirements of developing countries, taking into account as a useful indicator of such requirements the estimate of the FAO and WFP Secretariats that food aid needs are likely to rise to 20 million tons by 1985;
(d) to make additional contributions in food or in cash to the International Emergency Food Reserve (IEFR) in order to reach, and if necessary to exceed, the present target since this amount might not enable the needs to be met, and to appeal also to other countries to contribute appropriately.
(Adopted 22 November 1983)
C. International Agricultural Adjustment
Fourth monitoring report
Revision and up-dating of guidelines
Fourth monitoring report
94. The Conference discussed the progress of international agricultural adjustment in the period since the adoption of the Strategy of International Agricultural Adjustment and its Guidelines by the Eighteenth Session of the Conference in 1975.
95. The Conference agreed that the Guidelines constituted a normative frame for agricultural policy harmonization at the international policy level. Member Nations had agreed to take its goals and policy approaches into account in formulating their own national policies. Periodic monitoring of progress provided a unique mechanism for evaluating changes in world food and agriculture.
96. The Conference noted that the Guidelines had been adopted at a time of food crisis, the World Food Conference having been held only the previous year. The following eight years had been economically turbulent ones with sharp price fluctuations and, more recently, a world recession which had strongly and adversely affected all countries, especially developing countries. The efforts of many developing countries to begin or carry forward the transformations required in their agriculture had been checked or thwarted. The Guidelines had been based on the economic interdependence which to a substantial and increasing degree should exist between all countries but the recession had tempted countries to decide on their own policies and measures with less account being taken of their impact on other countries.
97. The Conference regretted that the target of a 4 percent growth rate in the food production of developing countries continued to be an elusive target. Nevertheless, performance was better in 1974-82 than in the preceding period and per caput food production for developing countries as a whole had risen to 1 percent a year. There were, however, numerous countries, especially in Africa, where per caput food production had declined. The marked increase in agricultural research in developing countries was a good augury for their future although it was necessary that some relatively neglected crops such as pulses and legumes should now receive more attention.
98. The Conference stressed the vital importance of an adequate flow of resources into the agriculture of developing countries. The efforts of the Secretariat to assemble data on this aspect could be assisted by countries supplying more information. A number of members referred to the very great efforts that their countries were making to raise the share of agriculture in public expenditures, both capital and current. Some members were apprehensive lest the FAO, data in the report should be misinterpreted as showing a lack of awareness in food deficit countries of the need to give adequate priority to the sector. In their own countries, this was not the case. The commitment of governments to increase total flow of resources to agriculture was essential.
99. The Conference stressed the importance of the adequacy of prices received by producers as a stimulus to them but pointed to the dilemma faced by governments in most developing countries. Raising prices received by producers could inflict more hardships on the large numbers of people already living in extreme poverty. For this reason, widespread use often had to be made of subsidies on such production inputs as fertilizers, and of consumer price subsidies. Experience was also being gained with welfare food distribution such as Food Stamp schemes. Prices received by farmers in developing countries also had been affected by weakening international market prices in recent years.
100. The Conference welcomed an overall improvement in per caput calorie intakes in developing countries over the period being monitored but it expressed concern that in many countries the nutritional situation had deteriorated. More support needed to be given to rural development programmes and employment promotion to underpin demand. Women should benefit more from these programmes. Some undesirable changes had arisen in food consumption patterns arising, inter alia, from the influence on consumers' choices of the operation of transnational firms. The Conference also pointed to the large potential which existed for adding to available food supplies through reducing food losses.
101. The Conference expressed concern that, contrary to the objectives of international agricultural adjustment, developing countries had not improved their share of world agricultural trade. On the contrary, their share of exports had fallen while imports continued to grow. Except in the Far East, regional self-sufficiency in basic foods had continued to decline and often much of the gains in per caput calorie intakes had been based on increased imports.
102. The Conference noted with regret that no significant progress had been made in reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers to agricultural trade in GATT and UNCTAD, yet trade improvements could generate more income in developing countries than aid flows. The fluctuations and uncertainties provoked by the recession had worsened the situation. Attention was also drawn to the impact of the recession on some developed agricultural exporting countries which, in the past two years, had been confronted with prices below the level of even the most efficient producers. Severe problems of supply/demand imbalances existed for some commodities of importance to developed countries with a consequent need for policy adjustment.
103. The Conference noted that world cereal stocks had risen at the end of the 1982/83 season to 21 percent of world annual consumption but were expected to decline substantially by the end of the current season. It was generally agreed that the concentration of stocks in a few countries was undesirable and added to the vulnerability of food security.
104. The Conference expressed its concern that the flow of assistance to developing countries had remained below levels which, according to the Guidelines, were required in the second half of the 1970s. This shortfall had serious repercussions on resources available for agricultural development. Reference was also made to the responsibility of developing recipient countries to ensure that suitable projects were available and that assistance to the projects could be implemented and to the need for extending technical assistance to these countries for this purpose.
105. The Conference recognized the contribution which food aid could make to rural development and employment. Members considered that food aid should have clearly defined goals in the transfer of resources. The view was expressed that because many national aid agencies had a bias against food aid, its share of total aid was likely to decline even though its actual volume might increase.
106. The Conference noted the biennial monitoring report on international agricultural adjustment as a succinct and comprehensive account of key changes in world agriculture, and considered that it would be further improved if the Secretariat dealt with the following:
- possible improvement of the data on resource flows to agriculture;
- examination of potential increases in food supplies through the reduction of post-harvest losses;
- use of indices of prices of goods and services of particular concern to farmers in relation to prices which they receive.
107. The Conference was advised that such improvements depended basically on countries making available to FAO the relevant data. In view of the importance of a dependable assessment of the flow of resources to agriculture, countries should make available to FAO any new or more detailed data in this field.
108. The Conference endorsed the Director-General's intention to draw on the Conference discussion of the monitoring report on international agricultural adjustment and of related agenda items in the preparation of his contribution to the Review and Appraisal of the International Development Strategy which would be carried out by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1984.