D. International commodity problems
86. The Conference noted the Report of the FAO Committee on Commodity Problems which had been referred to it by the Council and was presented by the Chairman of the Committee.
87. In the light of the need for increased production of agricultural products which represents one of the key problems in the world today, the Conference urged the expansion of output by means of national and international action as essential in the interests of both producers and consumers. It also held that such expansion could only be achieved if technical and other measures for increasing production were accompanied by assurances enabling farmers to dispose of their products in secure and stable markets at prices which were reasonable in relation to the cost of production, to the cost of goods which the farmers had to buy, and to the prices of related commodities. It was agreed that FAO had an important part to play in furthering these objectives, and the Conference urged governments to take all possible steps toward fulfilling the mandate given to FAO in this field in its Constitution.
88. Reasonable stability of income for the producer with adequate safeguards for the consumer must be sought, in the first place, by the action of individual governments within their own territories. An increasing number of governments had introduced measures directed towards greater agricultural stability. For example, some countries guaranteed the markets and prices of a large part of their agricultural output, often using subsidies to producers or consumers for this purpose Certain other countries, being unable to ensure an adequate return to their producers because a high proportion of their agricultural output was exported, undertook the centralized selling of certain products for export, coupled in some cases with financial arrangements designed to mitigate the harmful effects of marked price fluctuations. These measures varied widely in their effectiveness and in their repercussions on the economy of nations and the outside world. The Conference noted with satisfaction that the program of work of the Economics Division included a survey of existing stabilization measures for agricultural products.
89. The Conference regarded the rapid alternation of fears of surpluses and fears of shortages during the past five years as a matter of grave concern. It re-affirmed its faith in inter-governmental commodity agreements for some staple commodities as a means toward greater stability, and considered that such agreements could make a useful contribution towards the measures required for bringing about an expanding world economy. Commodity agreements had to look beyond the immediate difficulties of impending shortages or surpluses if the steady long-term increase of production necessary to feed an increasing world population was to be achieved.
90. The Conference then examined the existing international machinery for dealing with commodity problems and agreed that it should be more fully used. Insofar as FAO machinery was concerned, it recommended that the Council should undertake specific tasks in respect of serious food shortages and famine (see par. 103 - 106 and Resolution No. 15).
91. Some delegations expressed the view that the existing machinery was designed to deal more fully with problems of burdensome surpluses than with the problems of shortage which were confronting the world at the moment or with the problem of fluctuating prices. Whilst it was agreed that nothing should be done to impede the valuable work of existing organizations in this field, such as the International Materials Conference. it was urged that the attention of the Economic and Social Council should be drawn to these views and to the need to re-examine the provision of Chapter VI of the Havana Charter from this standpoint. The Conference adopted the following resolution:
Resolution No. 11
Commodity Control Agreements
Having noted that the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations at its 13th Session adopted a Resolution which included a recommendation that the Members of the United Nations continue to accept the principles of Chapter VI of the Havana Charter as a general guide in inter-governmental consultation on action with respect to commodity problems,
Believing that in periods of marked price fluctuation or of shortage or pending shortages, as well as in times of surpluses or prospective surpluses of agricultural commoditie, commodity control agreements as defined in Chapter VI of the Havana Charter, could contribute toward stabilizing international markets for agricultural commodities,
Requests the Director-General to call the attention of the Economic and Social Council to the views of the Conference of FAO and to ask that they may be taken into account when the Economic and Social Council reviews the provisions of Chapter VI of the Charter.
92. Some delegations stressed the need for ensuring the proper co-ordination of the various international agencies concerned with international c commodity arrangements. It was noted with satisfaction that FAO had been able to establish increasingly close relations with the Economic and Social Council in the commodity field through FAO's membership in ICCICA, with the International Materials Conference, and with councils, study groups and other bodies concerned with international arrangements for individual agricultural commodities. Further progress in this direction might be necessary, however, and Member Governments were again urged to ensure through their representatives that the special position of FAO was fully recognized.
93. Reference was made to the fact that FAO had not played its full part in international discussions of commodity problems. The position of the Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP) was examined in this connection In the view of some delegations the Committee had been handicapped in its work by the failure of certain Member Governments to send to its meetings representatives who were not only familiar with the problems under discussion but with the attitude of their governments to these problems. The Conference therefore considered that Member Governments which undertook to serve on the Committee should send suitably qualified representatives to its meetings, accompanied, in appropriate cases, by experts in the subjects under discussion. It was agreed that the terms of reference of the Committee were adequate for the tasks placed before it. In particular, it was noted that these terms of reference permitted the Committee to set up working parties in which governments, not members of the Committee, who considered that they had a substantial interest in the production, consumption, or trade of the commodity under discussion, could participate as full members.
94. The Committee had a special, important task in affording guidance to the Organization through the Council over the entire field of work on commodity problems, including relations with other international organizations and agencies. On the latter point, it was regarded as essential to ensure that the representative of FAO on lCCICA was fully informed of the activities of the Committee and that in turn the Committee was fully informed of his activities.
95. A number of delegations put forward suggestions for the future work of the Committee. It was agreed that commodities which were already the subject of study or action by other intergovernmental bodies (e.g. cotton, wool, rubber and sugar) should be left to these bodies but that FAO should keep itself fully informed of their programs and policies. As to commodities not covered by such other bodies, it was agreed that the Council should ask CCP to undertake a rapid survey of cereal feed-stuffs, rice, animal products (such as meat, dairy products and eggs) and fats and oils with a view to deciding whether more detailed studies and proposals for international action would be profitable and, if so, which procedure would produce the best results.
96. In addition to dealing with individual commodities it was proposed that the Committee should devote attention to measures other than international commodity agreements which, directly or indirectly, would promote greater stability. In particular, the Committee, in the course of its work, should consider measures for improving conditions for marketing agricultural commodities both nationally and internationally. If it appeared in the course of this work that problems arose that fell outside the competence of FAO, reference should be made to the competent bodies and their co-operation sought. The Conference adopted the following resolution:
Resolution No. 12
Council's Committee on Commodity Problems
Conscious of the importance to the Council that adequate studies in regard to international commodities should continue to be made and that advice on suitable action should continue to be given,
Taking note of the work which is being done by the Committee on Commodity Problems in this field,
Considering that discussions in the Committee should take place between government representatives who are fully informed of the problems which arise or are likely to arise,
Draws the attention of Member Nations to the importance of this work:
Requests the Council to instruct the Committee to continue and extend its work in this field in the light of the views expressed by the Conference and to remind the Committee of its competence to set up working groups and to invite countries not represented on the Committee to participate in its deliberations, with full powers when subjects on which they are specially informed are under discussion.
Requests Member Nations participating in the Committee to ensure that their representatives are suitably qualified.
97. Some delegations emphasized the important role that regional co-ordination of national policies could play in ensuring the required expansion of agricultural production. Such measures, leading to an improvement in the pattern of production in the regions concerned, might be a useful step towards world-wide co-operation. The Conference adopted the following resolution:
Resolution No. 13
Noting the various proposals in the field of regional agricultural integration which have been placed before it and, having also before it resolutions indicating that FAO might render in this field at the appropriate time,
Recognizing the need for increasing agricultural efficiency and productivity and the importance of widening trade areas through the reduction of trade barriers troth on a regional and a world-wide basis
Welcoming any regional discussions or developments designed to further these objectives
Considering that the main responsibility for discussing and developing regional arrangements rests outside FAO,
Authorizes the Director-General to give to governments or international organizations concerned such advice or assistance of a technical nature as may be appropriate.
Action regarding Particular Commodities
98. The Conference agreed that the continued shortage of rice was a matter of grave concern It considered suggestions that the problem might be dealt with by the re-introduction of international allocations or by some form of commodity agreement. No decision, however, could be reached on the approach to be adopted. It was agreed that the problem required urgent study and that CCP was the appropriate body co undertake this task. In this study, all important producing and consuming countries should be given an opportunity to participate and due regard should be given to the position of the International Rice Commission. If it were found by CCP that an international conference should be called, this action should be taken without delay, according to established international procedures. The Conference adopted the following resolution:
Resolution No. 14
Supplies and Distribution of Rice
Noting with concern the difficulties resulting from the lack of equilibrium between the supply and demand for rice,
Recognizing the importance to the economies of the principal exporting countries of the price of rice in relation to the prices of other commodities
Requests the Council to instruct CCP to undertake, with due regard to the position of the International Rice Commission, an immediate study of the economic factors affecting the present and prospective supplies, distribution, and price of rice in the main producing and consuming areas, with a view to making appropriate recommendations for ensuring an adequate production of rice and its distribution at prices fair to producers and consumers.
Fertilizers and Pesticides
99. The Conference shared the concern of CCP about the effect of the shortage of sulphur on the supply of certain fertilizers and pesticides. It noted that the International Materials Conference was allocating crude sulphur and expressed the hope that allocation would continue for as long as sulphur supplies were inadequate to meet demand.
100. At the same time, Member Governments were urged, in distributing the supplies of sulphur available to them, to have due regard to the special needs of agriculture and to study urgently all methods for the recovery and recuperation of sulphuric acid in industrial processes.
101. The Conference took note of the memorandum on dairy products submitted by the Netherlands delegation and referred this memorandum to the Council for consideration and report by CCP.
Fruit and Vegetables
102. The Conference had before it an account of the discussions which had taken place in the Food and Agriculture Committee of the Organization for European Economic Cooperation with regard to the development of markets for, and increased consumption of, fruit and vegetables and took note of the action taken by OEEC in this field.
E. Food shortages and famine
103. The Conference had before it the Resolution of the 13th Session of the Economic and Social Council (31 August 1951) on "The Problem of Food Shortages and Famine in many Regions" which includes the following recommendations:
1. That FAO keep existing or emerging food shortages in individual countries under continuous surveillance and maintain its periodic studies of such problems;
2. Further, that FAO, in instances of pending critical food shortages or famine, make emergency reports thereon, such reports to be submitted to the FAO Council and Conference and also to the Secretary-General for transmission to the Economic and Social Council.
104. The Conference considered that FAO should accept responsibility for detecting at the earliest possible moment impending food shortages or famine in its Member Countries arising from abnormal factors and of making emergency reports thereon. It emphasized at the same time that FAO could perform this task effectively only if affected governments keep it fully informed when food shortages are imminent. Suitable measures should be taken within the Secretariat of FAO to obtain prompt information on impending emergencies and to report on the international assistance which may be needed to forestall or alleviate the food shortages and famine.
105. Immediate internal measures must be taken by the government of the country faced with the emergency,. The measures which are appropriate in such cases were described in a report entitled "Prevention of Severe Malnutrition of Civilian Population in Times of Disaster" which was approved by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Nutrition at its Second Session in 1951 and subsequently by the World Health Assembly (June, 1951).
106. The Conference considered that grave consequences might arise from serious food shortages in any of the Member Nations. Prompt action was needed before the emergency had reached a critical stage in order to prevent panic and hoarding of food and to facilitate the government's task; in developing internal measures for food management and distribution. The Conference adopts d the following resolution
Resolution No. 15
Food Shortages and Famine
1. That on receiving intimation from a Member Nation or region that a serious food shortage or famine exists or is likely to develop, which it is unable to cope with from its own resources, the Director-General shall depute one or more FAO officials to investigate the nature of the problem with the consent of the government concerned and to report on the extent, if any, of international assistance needed and communicate the report to the United Nations and the interested Specialized Agencies;
2. That when, in the opinion of the Director-General, there is an emergency requiring international relief measures, he shall at his discretion convene forthwith a meeting of the Council or of interested governments to devise the most practical lines of action which may be required to bring about prompt, concerted and effective assistance by governments as well as by voluntary agencies; and that the Director-General shall thereupon report the action taken to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for transmission to the Economic and Social Council.
Emergency Food Reserve
107. The Conference wished to emphasize the grave risks inherent in the calamitous food shortages which were likely to develop in the world from time to time. In order to safeguard Member Nations from possible breakdown due to serious food shortages or famine, the Conference considered that the possibility of establishing an emergency food reserve should be studied. The Conference adopted the following resolution:
Resolution No. 16
Emergency Food Reserve
Resolves that the Council should study and explore suitable ways and means whereby an emergency food reserve can be established and made available promptly to Member States threatened or affected by serious food shortages or famine.