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V. Major trends and policies in food and agriculture

A. Statements by heads of delegations in the general discussion
B. World food and agriculture situation
C. World food and agricultural development strategy
D. Energy in agriculture and rural development

A. Statements by heads of delegations in the general discussion

31. The Plenary General Discussion as opened by the Director-General. The text of his statement is given in Appendix D. Following this, 137 speakers participated in the discussion: the Independent Chairman of the Council, 126 -Heads of delegations - of which 100 were Ministers and Vice-Ministers - the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to FAO, representatives of two bodies and one organization in the United Nations system, the European Economic Community and observers from one intergovernmental organization, three liberation movements and one international non-governmental organization having consultative status with FAO. The statements of one Member Nation and one international non-governmental organization having consultative status with FAO were inserted in the records.

B. World food and agriculture situation

State of Food and Agriculture
Progress in Implementation of the plan of action to Strengthen world food security

State of Food and Agriculture

32. The Conference reviewed the current food and agricultural situation as well as the long-term trends on the basis of the Director-General's report, the State of Food and Agriculture 1981, and its Supplement, and generally endorsed his assessment of the situation.

33. While the immediate threat of another world food crisis had been averted with a larger cereals harvest in 1981, the Conference considered the basic features of the food and agricultural situation as continuing to be generally unsatisfactory. It emphasized that the improvements in world food supply in 1981, welcome as they were, should not lull the inter-national community into a sense of complacency.

34. The Conference noted that food and agricultural production in the world was likely to increase by 2.5 percent and 2.7 percent respectively in 1981, after two years of increases of less than 1 percent. However, although the growth rates in 1981 were above the average for the 1970s, the output in 1981 was still below the longer-term trend level. The Conference drew attention to the gloomy economic situation, in the world, marked by economic recession, a slowdown in the growth of trade, a continuation of protectionist pressures and practices and widespread inflation and unemployment, which, along with the lack of a fully effective system of world food security, made the present period one of the most economically difficult since World War II. These problems plagued both developed and developing countries. The low-income, food-deficit countries in particular had limited capacities to face up to these problems and were thus more vulnerable.

35. The welcome improvements in food and agricultural production in 1981 were not shared equally by all countries in both the developed and the developing world. The Conference drew attention, in particular, to the setbacks suffered by some countries in Africa and the Near East, while noting that some countries in these regions had registered large increases in production or had had good crops. Significantly increased food and agricultural production also had been recorded in most developed regions in 1981 although, in one of them, the recovery failed to offset the declines of the previous two years, thus leading to a sizeable increase in cereal imports.

36. The expected increase of 2 to 3 percent in world production of cereals would permit some rebuilding of stocks during the 1981/82 season, which would be a welcome reversal of the trend in the previous two seasons when stocks had been drawn down. However, the Conference expressed concern that the carryover level forecast for the end of the 1981/82 season would still represent only about 16 percent of annual consumption requirement and would thus be lower than the minimum safe level for world food security as estimated by the FAO Secretariat. The increase in stocks would be mostly in the from of coarse grains and not as wheat which was of more direct use for human consumption in many countries and the stocks would be held mostly by major exporting and developed countries. The Conference voiced concern that despite efforts to increase cereal stock infrastructure in developing countries, the levels of stocks held by them remained inadequate. Attention was drawn to the large amount of food lost after harvest and reiterated the need for continued improvements in storage facilities to minimize this waste.

37. The Conference welcomed the importance that the Cancún Summit had attached to the problems of world agricultural development as well as to measures for improving food security.

38. The continuing absence of a consensus which would prompt the resumption of negotiations or. a new Wheat Trade Convention was generally regretted.

39. It was emphasized that any lasting improvement in world food security could only be achieved with sustained, accelerated expansion of food production by developing countries them selves and the enhancement of their self-reliance in food. The Conference drew attention in this connection to the need for greater efforts by the developing countries, in particular the least developed and other low-income countries, especially in Africa, and at the same time emphasized the need for adequate international support to their efforts. In some countries this may call for review of strategies, plans and programmes for food production as well as economic and population policies; in others, the critical constraints may be in the design and implementation of agricultural policy, while in still others the requirements were for access to land and reforms in institutions and services.

40. Among policy measures the Conference attached particular importance to policies for maintaining adequate producer price incentives in developing countries for increasing food production by the farmers. In this connection the rising levels of agricultural production costs which were affecting the net incomes of farmers in both developing and developed countries were noted with concern.

41. The Conference drew attention to the need for intensified research to promote more efficient and economical use of inputs and energy in food and agricultural production. In particular, research should be undertaken to find alternative methods of feeding livestock.

42. The Conference noted that fertilizer prices had risen in 1980 and that the rate of growth in fertilizer consumption had declined significantly as a consequence. Higher prices were making it difficult for many developing countries, particularly low-income countries, to finance their fertilizer needs and hence to increase their food production. More recently, however, the export prices of the main traded types of fertilizers had tended to level off or even decline in terms of US dollars, particularly phosphatic fertilizers, although the simultaneous strengthening of the dollar against most other currencies meant that prices had continued to rise in terms of domestic currencies of most importing countries.

43. The Conference noted that the substantial bilateral aid provided to developing countries for fertilizers in 1978/79 had declined in 1979/80, as noted with concern by the Fertilizer Commission at its session in September 1981. It appreciated the recent new contributions made to the International Fertilizer Supply Scheme (IFS) by several countries, but drew attention to the continued declining trend, despite these pledges, of the annual contributions to the scheme to only a small fraction of the level of 1974/75. The Conference underlined the need to continue, on the one hand, to help developing countries to manufacture fertilizers economically, and on the other hand, when it was necessary, to provide developing countries, in particular the low-income countries, with fertilizer supplies and technical assistance. It urged donors to support fertilizer requirements in developing countries either bilaterally or in the IFS.

44. Emphasis was generally placed on the WCARRD mandate in alleviating poverty. improving the distribution of rural income while increasing agricultural production, in particular the need to address poor and disadvantaged rural groups through community action and increased services. The need for national monitoring and evaluation of progress was also brought out

45. Land distribution, proper use of land and agrarian reform were seen as major vehicles for increasing agricultural production in some developing countries. Particular emphasis was also placed on the need for improvements in rural infrastructure, including extension and agricultural education, cooperatives and credit. A number of members emphasized the need for designing policies arid providing services to reach small farmers and other disadvantaged groups including the establishment of a special fund for small farmers. By biasing institutions and input distribution systems towards, and promoting group activities among, small-scale farmers, much could be done to alleviate rural poverty.

46. The Conference appreciated the analysis of population trends in the documents Attention was drawn to the dynamic aspects of population such as its rate of growth and rates of migration within a country which might pose more serious problems than the size of the population itself. A number of members drew attention to the problems posed in balancing rapid population growth and rising incomes with the food supply; it was necessary to consider not only population growth but also the size, distribution, structure and movement of the population and its implications. Particular attention was drawn to the problems of rural-urban migration and employment in developing population activities. The need to integrate more population considerations into the agricultural development activities of the Organization was also suggested.

47. World Food Day was acknowledged by the Conference as a useful means of focussing attention to world food problems.

48. Although by and large world food supplies were statistically adequate to maintain a reasonable level of nutrition for everyone, the Conference noted with concern that there was unequal distribution of available food supplies both between and within countries. Governments would have to pay increased attention nationally and internationally to the distribution aspects of food and to policies to increase the purchasing power of the poor and to reduce poverty.

49. The Conference noted that food balance sheets were currently the only available comprehensive source of information on food supplies. While their limitations were fully recognized, they did permit regular assessments to be made on progress at the country level in meeting estimated average nutritional requirements from food supplies, although they did not cover the distribution of food intake among individuals and households.

50. In view of this, the Conference noted the necessity to improve the quality to and coverage of information at the country level on the nutritional status of different groups of the population. It urged governments to make particular efforts to collect and analyse data on food consumption through household surveys and to make them available to TAO.

51. The reference to child nutrition in the documents was welcomed, given the susceptibility of this vulnerable group of the population to nutritional deficiencies. The need to consider the dynamic aspects of this issue was underlined: namely, the effects of changing patterns of land use and hence food availabilities, the time available to mothers for child care, availability of safe drinking water and other changes wrought by agricultural development on the welfare of the child.

52. Members repeatedly referred to the roles of improved yet appropriate technologies both to increase food and agriculture production and to introduce more efficient methods of preservation and processing of foods to improve nutrition.

53. The Conference expressed concern at the recent trends in the flow of official external assistance especially to agriculture which, although higher in nominal terms, had declined in real terms in 1980 for the second consecutive year It urged donor countries and international financial institutions to increase the flow of financial recources to developing countries in support of their measures to increase substantially investment in agriculture, as recommended in the international Development Strategy for the Third UN Development Decade, and invited developing countries to devote to agriculture an appropriate amount of non-project aid and externally borrowed funds.

54. The Conference welcomed the increase in the flow of external assistance to agriculture in the Least Developed Countries. It also welcomed the commitment of donors in their agricultural development assistance programmes to give priority to this group of countries, as had been recommended by the UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries held in September 1981.

55. The Conference noted that while food aid was not a substitute for increased food production and was essentially a means to development and not an end in itself, nevertheless it performed a vital need in meeting emergency food needs, covering food supply gaps in low-income countries and supporting specific food production programmes. In view of continuing large food aid requirements, it expressed concern that food aid shipments had stagnated and even declined in 1980. It noted that food aid was covering a declining proportion of the cereal import needs of low-income countries, reflecting temporary and specific problems affecting some countries. It urged all current and potential donors to increase their efforts to meet the minimum annual target of 10 million tons of food aid agreed at the World Food Conference, in the same spirit that had been recently shown by donors, including the EEC and the OPEC Special Fund, to ensure this year's fulfilment of the IEFR target.

56. The Conference noted with particular concern the adverse effects of the slowing down of the world economy on agricultural trade. Although the value of this trade in 1980 had increased by 11 percent, this was well below the average annual rate of increase for the 1970s and, in real terms, registered practically no growth. Attention was drawn to the declining terms of trade of agricultural products of export interest to developing countries. This was making it particularly difficult for them to finance their development efforts at a time when aid flows were sluggish and rates of interest on commercial loans were high. While productivity gains could offset the effects of price declines on farm net incomes, these would not improve the purchasing power of agricultural export earnings of developing countries.

57. Much of the expansion in agricultural trade recorded in 1980 had been due to increased shipments of cereals, including feed grains. Concern was expressed over the growing food import burden of low-income, food-deficit developing countries. Indeed, among all the developing marketing economy regions, only Asia had achieved a small gain in agricultural export earnings in real terms in 1980.

58. The reason for this slowing down of agricultural trade which had affected some developed countries as well, was primarily depressed demand because of continuing economic recession, particularly for agricultural raw materials and tropical beverages. Concern was expressed that the increasing prevalence of protectionist policies and/or measures, with livestock products and sugar receiving particular attention, had seriously impeded on a number of occasions and might similarly impede in the future, the expansion of trade in these commodities. The Conference noted the measures taken by several developed countries to improve and facilitate the access to their markets of agricultural commodities from developing countries. One member stated that among developing countries themselves, some had reached the stage which allowed them to make progress along the same lines as developed countries. The mutual interests of developed and developing countries in promoting free trade were recognized as were the opportunities for expanding trade between developing countries themselves. In this connection some members suggested the establishment of a generalized system of trade preferences among developing countries for their benefit alone.

59. Recognizing the importance of stabilizing prices of commodities traded by developing countries, the Conference underlined the potential value of the Common Fund for commodities The Conference urged members who had not yet signed or ratified the agreement establishing the Fund to do so. Attention was called to the potential for expanding technical and economic cooperation amongst developing countries, particularly in sharing experiences in disseminating technical information and in promoting trade and investment.

60. With regard to fishery resources, the Conference expressed concern about the stagnation in the world catch in 1980. Mention was made of the need for full utilization of the resources in newly acquired Exclusive Economic Zones and of the important role FAO should play in this and in the development of fishery management capabilities in developing countries. The importance of cooperation among coastal countries sharing common stocks of fish was stressed and reference was made to the need for expanding the use of seafood to help overcome problems of protein malnutrition.

61. The Conference emphasized the need for greater effort by countries, with needed FAO support, for forestry development to ensure increases in future supplies of fuel wood and charcoal and of industrial wood products and at the same time to avoid degradation of the environment, protect watersheds and thus reduce the risk of natural disasters of flood and soil erosion. The importance of reversing the current trend to uncontrolled deforestation with its consequence of destabilizing the ecological balance and causing soil erosion or desertification was stressed. The important contribution of forestry to rural development was identified, not only in relation to the supply of fuel and general support to agriculture, but also in the supply of food and foliage, enriching the nutritional quality of food supply and extending supplies of animal fodder.

62. The Conference pointed out the vital need to preserve and protect the ecological base on which future production rested through, for example, improved soil and forest management. Thus, it emphasized the complementarily of forestry and agriculture and the importance of combining activities in both areas.

63. The Conference endorsed the concern of the UN Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy, that a vastly increased afforestation programme must he achieved in developing countries.

64. The Conference underlined that special attention be given by all countries to implement policies aiming to create an environment of peace, political security and freedom from international tensions. Such an environment was essential for increasing food and agricultural production, particularly in developing countries.

65. It was noted that the value of the analysis of the state of food and agriculture would be enhanced if distinction between different groups of countries were further pursued.

Progress in Implementation of the plan of action to Strengthen world food security

66. The Conference reviewed the progress made in implementing the Plan of Action on World Food Security since its Twentieth Session, when it had adopted Resolution 3/79 urging all governments to take immediate steps to put the Plan into operation .

67. The Conference reiterated its support for the Plan of Action on World Food Security and welcomed the progress made in its implementation. An increasing number of countries had adopted national stock policies or practices in line with the criteria laid down in the Plan of Action, although not all countries had yet been able to put these policies into operation. Moreover, various regional and sub-regional groupings in the developing world were considering ways of strengthening food security through schemes of collective self-reliance.

68. The Conference expressed particular satisfaction at the decision by the International Monetary Fund to extend balance of payments support through its compensatory financing facility to member countries experiencing temporary increases in the costs of their cereal imports. This was fully in line with the Plan of Action. However, some members pointed out that the facility could only provide marginal support to countries that were already using compensatory financing for other purposes. The Conference welcomed the new Food Aid Convention of 1980 and its extension for a two-year period to 1983, which provided for an annual food aid commitment of 7.6 million tons of grains. It hoped that new contributors would join it so that the minimum target of 10 million tons of food aid in cereals could be realized. It noted with satisfaction that the Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programmes intended to review food aid targets and requirements.

69. The fact that in 1981, for the first time since its inception, the International Emergency Food Reserve (IEFR) had reached its target of 500 000 tone of cereals, due to contributions by traditional donors and, most recently, additional contributions by the EEC, Australia and the OPEC Special Fund, was also a substantial step forward, which was appreciated by the Conference. It also welcomed Finland's intention to increase its contribution substantially in 1982. Another positive development was the procedure for consultations which might be called by the Director-General within the framework for the Agenda for Consultations and Possible Action to Deal with Acute and Large-Scale Food Shortages drawn up by the Committee on World Food Security at its Sixth Session.

70. Recognizing the long-term need for a more rapid growth of production of all basic foods, including fish, animal products, vegetable oils, etc. particularly in low-income, food-deficit countries, the Conference welcomed the fact that several countries in South Asia had succeeded in increasing their food production sufficiently to reduce greatly their dependence on food imports and food aid. Others had been unable to accelerate the growth in their domestic food production, partly due to a lack of resources. As noted above, this situation called for more intensive efforts by the developing countries themselves as well as additional support from the international community. The need for an equitable distribution of available food supplies was also stressed.

71. The Conference reiterated the importance of food reserves as an element in food security, and particularly as protection against food shortages occurring in the wake of natural or man-made disasters. It noted with concern that many developing countries, and in particular low-income, food-deficit countries, had not yet been able to establish such national reserves due to insufficient food production, lack of storage facilities, and other financial and technical constraints. It stressed the importance of establishing early warning systems and preparedness programmes. It also called for improved information on stock levels. The Conference agreed that FAO, should continue to assist interested governments in the formulation and implementation of their food security programmes through the Food Security Assistance Scheme (FSAS), whose services had already proved useful to many governments. The FSAS activities should continue to be carried out in close collaboration with the World Food Programme.

72. In view of the increasing requests for assistance in this field, the Conference welcomed the pledges of new trust fund contributions to the FSAS announced by Australia, Italy and Japan and the renewed commitments of the Netherlands and Norway and urged all governments in a position to do so and the concerned international organizations to increase their support for the national food security programmes of developing countries, either directly or through the FAO Food Security Assistance Scheme. It requested the Committee on World Food Security, as part of its review under the Plan of Action, to examine how to improve its ability to assess and evaluate food security assistance and the needs of developing countries, and invited all donors, including multilateral and regional financing agencies to contribute relevant information.

73. Many members stressed the need for further strengthening the level of the resources of the International Emergency Food Reserve (IEFR). The Conference also stressed that need for better predictability and continuity of the IEFR resources, and expressed its satisfaction that the CFA at its Twelfth Session had reached a consensus that, if Member Nations were able to make the necessary internal arrangements, a joint pledging conference could be convened for voluntary biennial pledges for the WFP regular resources and the IEFR. It also expressed the hope that the first such joint conference should be held next year.

74. The Conference stressed the importance of cooperative arrangements by developing countries to strengthen their collective self-reliance in food security through food reserves, mutual assistance during food emergencies, exchange of technical expertise, and joint efforts to increase food production. It expressed satisfaction at the increasing number of initiatives taken and envisaged at regional and sub-regional levels by developing countries, including the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahelian Zone (CILSS) and the Southern African countries, the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development, the Caribbean Economic Community, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and the Economic System for Latin America. It also welcomed the Lagos Plan. Of Action, the decision of the Third Islamic Summit Conference to establish an Islamic Food Supplies Security Fund as well as the decision of the Sixth Conference of the Heads of State/Government of Non-aligned countries that they should set up a food security system of their own. In this connection, the Conference recalled its earlier decision contained in Resolution 3/79, as adopted, concerning the creation of special regional accounts for the purchase of food to be stored for food security which could be particularly helpful for small producing and consuming countries. The Conference noted the suggestion that special measures should be considered to improve the food security of small, poor island economies.

75. The Conference stressed the need to fully implement the Plan of Action on World Food Security. Many members recognized that in the absence of a new Wheat Trade Convention the Plan of Action was the only internationally agreed framework for pursuing global policies on world food security and they therefore urged that it should be strengthened where possible. They considered that there was a need to heighten the consultative role of the Committee on World Food Security, particularly as regards the harmonization of national stock policies. A few members disagreed with this last view, considering that the International Wheat Council was the most appropriate forum for the examination of wheat reserve policies. Many members called for renewed efforts to conclude a new Wheat Trade Convention with provisions for market stability, world food security and the special interests of the developing countries. A few others questioned the desirability of such a new Convention.

76. The Conference underlined the importance of maintaining a balanced expansion of agricultural trade as an integral part of world food security. It stressed that the need for governments to resist pressures for increased protection and to promote efforts to liberalise world agricultural trade, especially in order to improve the export earnings of developing countries.

C. World food and agricultural development strategy

International agricultural adjustment
International Development Strategy (IDS), including Regional and National Development

77. The Conference discussed the progress of international agricultural adjustment and subsequently considered the new International Development Strategy, including national and regional development strategies.

International agricultural adjustment

78. The Conference based its discussion on C 81/24 "International Agricultural Adjustment: Third Progress Report" and C 81/LIM/20 "International Agricultural Adjustment" (Extract from A: Report of the Fifty-third Session of the Committee on Commodity Problems, Rome, September 1981 and B: Report of the Eightieth Session of Council, Rome, November 1981).

79. The Conference generally agreed with the assessments made by Council and the Committee on Commodity Problems that while there had been some progress, it was limited or patchy and overall it was inadequate. In the six years since the guidelines were adopted by Conference, basic food and agricultural problems in many of the developing countries had not been fully resolved. The Conference also recognized the considerable efforts and progress made by a number of developing countries. Recognition of the mutuality of interest between developing and developed countries in eliminating hunger had not been sufficiently followed by action.

80. The 4 percent target for annual growth of output, adopted originally by the World Food Conference in 1974, still eluded developing countries as a group. The crux of the world food problem, however, lay in the slow growth of food production in low-income, food-deficit countries together with uneven distribution of available food supplies. When production was related to population growth, the alarming extent of the shortfall in production performance in these countries was revealed. It was noted that inadequate investment and pricing policies which did not give sufficient incentives to producers appeared to be two major influences which constrained production growth.

81. While the main responsibility for accelerating food production was that of developing countries themselves, many members pointed to the need for improved trading conditions, particularly in access to markets. Developing countries particularly needed remunerative prices for their exports to assist them to pay for increasing quantities of production inputs, such as fertilizers, essential for raising crop yields. Terms of trade of many agricultural commodities continued to be unfavourable, especially in recent years, for many developing countries. Efforts should be made by developing countries, assisted by developed countries, to expand the intra-developing country trade in both commodities and production requisites.

82. The Conference while recognizing with appreciation that the assistance to agriculture was rising in money terms, expressed concern that such assistance had declined in real terms and remained below the level estimated to be necessary for the desired expansion of production. It was agreed that a higher priority should be given to agriculture within overall flows of assistance. It was also pointed out that donors tended to respond to the priority which recipient countries themselves gave to agriculture. The target for food aid should be met or, if possible, exceeded.

83. The importance of improved distribution of food in developing countries as a complement to better production was emphasized. The Conference recognized with regret that there was no indication yet of any diminution in the numbers of people who were seriously undernourished. Improved distribution must also encompass small farmers, landless labourers and women if nutritional improvements were to be broadly based and if effective demand wee to be sustained at a higher level. Nutritional education was another aspect that needed attention, including the scope for using more locally grown foods rather than becoming increasingly dependent on imports, particularly of foods which could not be grown economically within the country.

84. The Conference reaffirmed its understanding of the guidelines of international agricultural adjustment as providing an appropriate frame of reference in a world where countries were becoming ever more inter-dependent. Countries should take them into account when formulating their national policies.

85. The Conference agreed that the periodic appraisal of progress was useful and the Director-General should prepare another monitoring report for submission to the next session of Conference, in conformity with the usual procedure.

86. The Conference considered that while future monitoring reports should remain succinct, an attempt should be made to include the following improvements:

- giving more attention to low-income, food-deficit countries, and to basic food crops in addition to grains;

- assessing agricultural trade in the context of overall trade rather than in isolation;

- making the statistical data more specific and more disaggregated;

- orienting the report more to analysing reasons for progress or its lack than limiting it predominantly to reporting what had taken place;

- extending the time span of the monitoring beyond the most recent two to three years;

- extending the analysis to include trends in agriculture in developed centrally planned economies and their impact on trade and related international agricultural adjustments.

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