G. Statistics

Organization of the statistical work
General plan of work
General considerations

IF FAO is to carry out its work successfully it will need to know where and why hunger and malnutrition exist, what forms they take, and how widespread they are. Such data will serve as a basis for making plans, determining the efficacy of measures used, and measuring progress from time to time. Surveys to date amply demonstrate the feasibility of measuring nutritional status and getting data on food consumption of families and other small consuming units and per caput measures of food consumption of countries.

In the field of agricultural production important changes have taken place during World War II in the use of land for crop production, for pasture, for woodlots and forests, and for other uses. In the postwar period fluctuations in supplies of food and feed crops and the reaction of these upon prices will require continuous watchfulness on the part of producers. Otherwise they cannot make those timely adjustments in plans which tend toward keeping production in equilibrium with food requirements.

In all parts of the world fish are a valuable part of the food supply and in some parts they are a major item in the diet. It is important that proper information be provided to warn of any threatened depletion of this great natural resource.

The contribution of the forests to the needs and comforts of peoples has increased in volume and variety. An adequate reckoning of forest resources and the output of forest products is essential to a proper appraisal of developments in this great industry.

Human beings man the plows and garner the crops; they care for livestock, catch the fish, and fell the trees. Their number and welfare are matters of concern. The earnings of agricultural laborers, the income of tenants and landowners, and the relative sufficiency of food obtained by those who eat what they produce record the progress or lack of it in man's struggle for existence.

The material factors in agricultural production - land, equipment, supplies of producers' goods, credit and its cost - are complex but measurable.

Much of the world's food is consumed on the farms where it is produced, but a goodly portion reaches near or distant markets in response to the demands of nonfarm consumers. An enlightened knowledge of these movements and demands facilitates exchange of goods and makes possible economies in distribution.

The suggested programs of work to be undertaken by FAO will require the preparation of background data and numerous reports concerning current developments.

This report indicates, in a very general way, the types and kinds of data required and draws attention to those for which an early and continuing need is likely. The contemplated activities of the organization are so numerous that FAO will probably be able to collect only a certain proportion of the statistical data ultimately desired. In any case limitations of resources and personnel will make it necessary to restrict these activities to items of = maximum importance.

It is difficult at this time to gage the relative emphasis which will be placed on various projects undertaken by FAO in the future. The recommendations, therefore, should be regarded merely as having a general application and will need to be interpreted by the Director-General in keeping with the developing programs of work.

Organization of the statistical work

A strong central statistical unit should be established servicing all FAO activities, and so constituted as to meet the technical requirements of the organization, which relate to nutrition and food consumption, rural welfare, agricultural production, marketing, prices, fisheries, and forestry and forest products.

The statistical unit should have primary responsibility for collecting, compiling, and disseminating recurrent statistics, and for promoting improvements in statistical techniques. It should assist the other branches of FAO in planning and processing special surveys in their special fields, and carry out such special surveys of its own as may be required.

Provision should be made for consultation and coordination of work with other international bodies collecting statistics so as to avoid overlapping and get data of maximum usefulness.

In accordance with the Constitution, an advisory committee of statistical and economic expects should be provided to advise and assist in the statistical organization and work of FAO.

The statistical unit and various branches of FAO, through the proper channels and in accordance with the Constitution, should advise, assist, or cooperate with national statistical agencies, research institutes, and other academic bodies which are working in the field of economics and statistics relating to food and agriculture.

General plan of work

It is a matter of the greatest urgency to resume as rapidly as possible the publication of international agricultural statistics and the series formerly collected and published by the International Institute of Agriculture (I.I.A.), the Centre International de Sylviculture (C.I.S.), and the Comité International du Bois (C.I.B.). These should have very high priority in the statistical work of FAO along with a general survey of nutrition and food consumption for which scattered data must be used. The type and scope of series and type of surveys should be expanded as rapidly as possible.

The form of all publications should be left to the discretion of the Director-General, subject to the provision relating to units of measure (see below) .

A study should be made of the possibility of taking a world census by 1950 or as soon as practicable thereafter, and a report made to the Second Session of the Conference of FAO. The priority of items in any census project should be indicated, and a minimum schedule for a world census prepared suitable for the countries with less well-developed statistical services. This could be supplemented by more elaborate schedules for the use of countries able and willing to adopt them. The census should include statistics on land holdings by status of cultivator and size of holding. In examining the possibility of a world census FAO should ascertain whether national censuses are planned for 1950 or thereabouts and report on the possibility of combining some of these projects.

Provision should be made for assisting governments to improve their statistical services. FAO should bring new developments in techniques to their notice and point out the value to be derived from such improvement. Arrangements should be made for the loan of statistical experts to countries requiring assistance and, at a future date, for the organization of regional conferences of statisticians working on data relating to the work of FAO, and for the exchange of students.

As it is a matter of urgency to get a complete picture of the statistical position in regard to food and agriculture in different parts of the world, steps should be taken to collect and publish information regarding the methods and definitions adopted in compiling statistics in different countries and regarding the extent and comprehensiveness of these statistics. Hence, stress should be laid on uniformity in definition of terms and of methods of collection, so as to facilitate comparisons among countries. This matter is of vital importance in every field of statistics.

FAO should also assist governments to plan data needed for internal use.

The metric system of units should be used in the statistical publications of FAO. However, the Director-General, at his discretion, may issue supplementary editions using other systems of units. In reporting to FAO countries may use their own systems of units. To facilitate the widest use of tables published in the metric system, early consideration should be given to the preparation of a manual of terms and factors for converting other systems of measurement to the metric system.

Nutrition and food consumption statistics

Governments should be requested to provide such information as may be available on (1) morbidity and mortality known to be related to nutrition, i.e., nutritional deficiency diseases (e.g., beriberi, pellagra, rickets, and scurvy); infant and maternal death rates, and prevalence of tuberculosis; (2) nutritional status of the population; and (3) food consumption.

Pending the collection of more complete information, possible only if new surveys are undertaken, FAO should collect, compile, and collate information on food supplies, consumption levels, and nutritional deficiencies in different areas and present for the world as a whole a picture of the extent and nature of undernutrition and malnutrition and factors associated with them.

It is important that FAO should undertake and promote the analysis of data on nutrition and food consumption and data on income, family size, occupation and residential environment, in order to determine their interrelationships.

Manuals are needed on methods of making and analyzing the findings of surveys of states of nutrition and food consumption. It is also necessary to set up uniform dietary standards, classifications of food, and those "conversion factors" used in translating, into terms of nutrients, quantities of food - data which may have been reported by producers, by wholesalers, or by consumers.

Rural welfare

Welfare programs of FAO should apply to fishermen and foresters as well as to farmers and farm laborers. Statistics of FAO listed under other headings constitute basic data on welfare, e.g., those on nutrition, food consumption, volume of production, and prices; but more data are needed on these and on suck items as nasality, fecundity, and migration to the extent that these are to be studied in their relation to problems of food and agriculture.

Much will need to be done to get suitable differentiation among families, by occupation and residential environment, in statistics on population, income (both money and nonmoney), and morbidity and mortality rates. Classification of communities will be needed to act suitable statistics on health and education facilities and services.

The scope of the available statistics needed should early be given consideration and important data collected and reported. Consideration should be given to collection of data relating to the degree of unemployment of the agricultural population and the extent of the failure to make full use of resources and facilities.

Agricultural production statistics

There is urgent need for the establishment of a program of reports concerning the area and production of crops, numbers of livestock, and output of animal products. These reports should be so timed as to be of maximum utility to producers and to governments in planning agricultural production, and should be published promptly.

A statistical summary and an appraisal should be prepared relating to the present utilization of land for cultivated crops, for pasture, for woodlots and forests, and for other purposes.

Special attention should be given to extending the coverage and improving the quality of the statistics of crop and livestock production and land utilization.

An important early task of FAO is the compilation and publication of statistics of agricultural production for the wartime period for as many countries as possible.

As a valuable supplement to the statistics of production, the statistics now available of primary processing of agricultural raw materials should be assembled and efforts made to extend such statistics wherever feasible to include primary processing carried out in noncommercial establishments or the farm home.

As circumstances permit, arrangements should be made to obtain either directly from the governments or by arrangement with other international agencies the statistics relating to: (1) agricultural employment and wages in money and in kind and total earnings of agricultural workers; (2) agricultural input, including materials such as fertilizers, feedstuffs and seeds, and other items utilized in agricultural production; and (3) the volume and condition of agricultural credit, including the use of credit by farm operators and the operations of agencies lending to agricultural producers.

Consideration should be given to the summarization and publication of significant meteorological data and the interchange of results of studies of weather-crop yield relationships.

With a view to assisting governments in improving surveys relating to land utilization and rural economic and sociological conditions, provision might be made for the publication of bibliographies of such surveys, and for subsequent summarization of the results of such surveys in the various countries.

Fishery statistics

FAO should encourage the publication by Member nations of basic fishery data, with particular attention to those areas which are not at present covered by existing international organizations. The statistics should be assembled by areas and localities from which the fish are obtained. Duplication in quantities of fish landed should be eliminated.

The organization should encourage and assist in the exchange among various countries of statistical publications on fisheries. To assist in this FAO should arrange for the publication of a classified catalog of existing statistical data on fisheries make provisions for periodically bringing this publication up to date.

Early publication is needed of statistics on the utilization of fish, the data to include landings, in terms of whole fish, and weight of product marketed. Statistics should be secured to indicate the final use of fish, e.g., human consumption, animal feed, etc. Liver oil should be reported in terms of vitamins A and D potency as well as weight, and industrial use should be distinguished from human consumption.

Uniform definitions of species of fish, conversion factors to be used to convert the weights of processed products to terms of whole fish, and methods of measuring fish consumption are urgently needed. To contribute to uniform definition of species of fish, early publication is recommended of nomenclature and synonyms of economically important species of fish.

Periodic surveys covering the types of gear used and the standard of living of workers in the fisheries should be arranged.

The loan of experts is especially pertinent with respect to fishery statistics and also early conferences on these matters are considered advisable.

Statistics on forestry and forest products

First priority should be given to the resumption and also the consolidation of the statistical series on forestry and forest products interrupted by the war. The principal object of this should be to provide as early as possible up-to-date statistics regarding production, national and international movements, and consumption of forest products.

Early attention should also be given to making preliminary arrangements for the general survey and inventory of forest resources and industries.

With a large part of the world having had no experience in such an undertaking' a general survey of forest resources will certainly not be accomplished unless FAO places itself in a position to render advice and assistance in methodology and procedure. This becomes particularly important if a world inventory of forest resources and dependent forest industries is conducted in conjunction with and as early as the proposed world census of agriculture.

Early and continuous attention should be paid to the problem of standardizing nomenclature and units of measurement of forest products, a problem which has been troublesome in all compilations of world forest resources and of forest products.

Statistics on marketing

Statistics on physical quantities of agricultural, forestry, and fishery products should be given high priority. These should include (1) quantities sold and moving through distribution channels for domestic use or export (to these must be added estimates of the amounts used in the households of the original producers and retained for seed and animal feed purposes, and of amounts disappearing through wastage in the processes of distribution); (2) stocks of these products at the source and at several important levels of the marketing process; and (3) international movement on a quantitative basis.

Price statistics are also important. These should include: (1) prices of the principal agricultural commodities at the farm and at well-established world and primary wholesale markets; (2) prices of selected foods in retail markets; (3) index numbers of prices at farm and wholesale levels; (4) index numbers of retail prices; (5) index numbers of prices paid by farmers for goods and services necessary for production; and (6) index numbers of prices paid for the elements of the cost of living on farms.

In addition to regular collection and reporting of such data, FAO should act as a clearinghouse and sponsor systematic work concerning (1) distribution costs - charges incurred between the point of production and ultimate consumption, including transportation rates, service charges! etc.; (2) national marketing agencies, including government activities, both national and international - their number, organization, and location; and (3) price-support, subsidy, and similar programs.

Immediate attention should be given to the preparation of a manual of terms and conversion factors in connection with international trade statistics.

Stimulation should be given to the wider dissemination in the simplest and clearest form of statistical information on marketing likely to be of service to administrators, both within and among countries.

The compilation and collection of statistics of taxation in their relation to agricultural production and distribution are complex because of difficulties in determining incidence and apportionment, but a beginning might be made of a study of the statistical data available.

General considerations

The statistics furnished to FAO by governments will ordinarily be based either upon enumerations or upon sample surveys conducted among farmers, fishermen, forest workers, and processors of agricultural raw materials. The validity of returns is enhanced by the assurance to the respondent of their confidential nature - that they will not be revealed to competitors, taxation officials, or others. FAO might stress in its reports on statistical methodology the desirability of maintaining the confidential nature of the reported operations of individuals and include illustrative legislation from countries where such provisions are now in force.

It is most important that statistical information received from governments should follow a well-defined time schedule, as otherwise it would not be possible for FAO to bring out its statistical publications in time and yet include in them data concerning the major part of the world.

In order to facilitate comparability it is essential that, along with their returns, governments should indicate the methods followed in compiling their statistics and the extent of the field left uncovered. In fact, it would be one of the functions of FAO to attempt an increasing measure of comparability among national statistics, strive for uniformity in definition and in schedules, and stimulate a continuous increase in the extent of the field covered until it is possible to have really comprehensive and comparable world statistics on food and agriculture.

With this end in view it may well be necessary for the statistical unit of FAO to convene a conference of experts and members of national statistical agencies for the purpose of considering statistical deficiencies and drawing up a coordinated program of improvement.

It should also be recognized that improvements in statistics cannot be undertaken by the isolated action of the statistical unit of FAO, and much work will have to be done by the statistical units of governments, by research agencies, and by individual academic workers throughout the world.

FAO can help by rendering technical advice when requested and by maintaining bibliographical service on statistical reports falling under its purview. It would also be useful if the provisions of the Constitution relating to the supplying of official publications by governments could be extended to include nonofficial publications dealing with food and agriculture on the lines of the Copyright Acts in force in some countries.

It would be conducive to the better utilization of FAO services and the efficient conducting of research in different parts of the world if regional libraries could be set up, at least in the three major regions, which would contain a complete collection of both official and nonofficial publications relating to the statistics of food and agriculture.

Finally, the enormous complexity and magnitude of the task involved, if these recommendations are to be carried out in complete detail, must be re-emphasized. Statistics vary in degree of comprehensiveness and reliability in this field, while as regards investigations and special inquiries, the work has hardly begun in most parts of the world. Although orders of priority are indicated in places, full discretion necessarily must be given to the Director-General in drawing up the coordinated program of work of the statistical unit in the light of practical difficulties. In doing so, full account undoubtedly will be taken of the various recommendations contained in this report. In conclusion, it is necessary to reiterate, however, the desirability of undertaking immediate resumption of the publication of a minimum series of international statistics interrupted by the war and also the publication of a brochure giving an account of the present position regarding food and agricultural statistics in different parts of the world.