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III. Major trends and policy questions in food and agriculture

A. World situation and outlook
B. International agricultural adjustment
C. Proposal by the director-general on a world food security policy

A. World situation and outlook

Salient features of the world food and agricultural situation
Sahelian zone operations
Commodity problems
Fishery problems
Water problems affecting agricultural development

Salient features of the world food and agricultural situation

31. The Conference discussed the world food and agricultural situation on the basis of the preliminary version of the Director-General's report on the State of Food and Agriculture 1973, supplemented by more up-to-date information furnished at the Session. The final version of the report was made available during the Session.

32. The Conference noted that during most of the period since its Sixteenth Session the situation had been more difficult than at any time since the years immediately following the Second World War. 1973 had been a year of concern, with the world's food supplies depending almost entirely on the current harvests, in the absence of large stocks to fall back on in case of crop failures. Although the latest information on the 1973 crops was encouraging, the situation remained tight.

33. In 1972 world agricultural production had fallen slightly for the first time since the Second World War. This decline was due to a fall in production in some large developed countries and a failure of production to increase in certain developing regions, In per caput terms, given the continued rapid population growth, food production in the developing countries was 3 percent lower in 1972 than in 1971, and in the heavily populated Far East region the fall in per caput production had been as much as 6 percent.

34. By the middle of 1973, world grain stocks had been reduced to the lowest level for two decades. The price of wheat on world markets had trebled between mid-1972 and mid-1973. With shortages of a number of other products as well, including such major sources of protein as soybeans and fish meal, there had been a chain reaction in the prices of many other commodities. The value of world trade in agricultural products had risen in 1972 by 15 percent at current prices, but in real terms the increase was only half as much, and as in past years the major share of the increase had gone to developed countries.

35. Despite some windfall gains in export earnings, the main effect on the developing countries of the 1972 production shortfalls was a reduction in the food consumption of the poorest strata of their populations. Especially during 1973, sufficient import supplies of wheat and rice had not generally been available to make up the production deficits, and even when obtainable had cost much more than in the past. Sharp rises in retail food prices had been almost universal. Emergency situations had developed in several areas, particularly the Sahelian zone of Africa.

36. The main cause of the poor production in 1972 had been the unusually widespread prevalence of unfavourable weather, especially drought. The Conference noted that in 1973 weather conditions had generally been favourable to agriculture, and that in some countries special government measures had contributed to a large increase in agricultural production. Information on the current harvests was still highly tentative, especially for the developing countries, and the estimates had been changing rapidly. But on the basis of the latest available information it appeared that world agricultural production had increased by between 3 and 4 percent in 1973.

37. Major factors in the improved outlook had been increased production in North America and a substantial recovery in the U.S.S.R.. There had been a drastic upward revision in October 1973 in the official estimate of the U.S.S.R. grain harvest, as a result of which FAO estimated that agricultural production in eastern Europe and the U.S.S.R. had increased by 7 to 8 percent in 1973. In the developed market economies the latest estimates indicated a rise of 2 to 3 percent, with increases of 1 to 2 percent in western Europe, 2 to 3 percent in North America, and a recovery of 5 to 6 percent in Oceania.

38. Production in the developing market economies was tentatively estimated to have shown an encouraging expansion of 3 to 4 percent in 1973. In the Far East, where production had declined in 1972, a rise of 6 to 8 percent was estimated for 1973, although the final outcome still depended on rice crops that had yet to be harvested in many areas. Unofficial estimates for China indicated an increase of 2 to 3 percent. An increase of 3 to 4 percent was estimated for Latin America, but in both Africa and the Near East the latest data showed a fall of 3 to 4 percent, The situation remained serious in many parts of Africa. In the Near East, however, it was less serious in view of the big increase in production in the previous year.

39. The world cereal balance in 1973/74 seemed likely to be less precarious than had been feared in the early autumn. However, world grain prices remained very high, and the rice situation would still be uncertain until all the major Far Eastern harvests were in.

40. The Conference emphasized that serious medium-term and longer-term problems would continue, especially structural problems of production, consumption and trade for the developing countries

41. In the medium-term, the duration of the present instability and high level of agricultural commodity prices was a major area of uncertainty. Although the replenishment of depleted cereal stocks should reduce price fluctuations, it was not clear to what extent the recent price rises were due to such factors as general inflation, currency changes, speculation, and higher transport costs, as well as to shortages.

42. The supply of inputs was crucial to the expansion of agricultural production in the developing countries. Agricultural development programmes in many of these countries were severely hindered by the current shortage and high price of fertilizers on world markets, and the Conference therefore welcomed the establishment of an FAO Commission on Fertilizers, and stressed the importance of increased investment in fertilizer production under aid programmes.

43. In the longer-term, the main need was for a more rapid and sustained expansion of agricultural production in the developing countries. Although some individual countries had achieved considerable success in this regard, the long-term growth of agricultural production in the developing countries as a whole was far behind the average annual increase of 4 percent called for in the international strategy for the Second United Nations Development Decade (DD2) and an average increase of about 5 percent was now required in the rest of the decade if the target was to be met. Many longer-term deficiencies had to be remedied by measures taken in the developing countries themselves if sufficient progress were to be made. The Conference laid particular stress on improvements in rural structures; technological advances suitable for less favoured environments and for small farmers; better services for the transfer of technology to small farmers; improved marketing; and incentive prices.

44. The Conference felt that greatly increased international support was needed for the efforts of the developing countries if constantly recurring crises were to be avoided, if international disparities were to be reduced, and if stability and progress were to be achieved in the interlinked world of developing and developed countries. The global flow of financial assistance was far below the internationally agreed DD2 target, and efforts should be made to reach this target as quickly as possible by those countries that had not yet attained it. Much more of such assistance should be devoted to agriculture and to the transfer of appropriate agricultural technology to the developing countries, including special measures for the least developed among these countries. It was stated that improved international trade conditions were also essential for progress, and that the agricultural trade of the developing countries continued to be in a weak position because of the competition of developed countries and difficulties of access to the markets of those countries.

45. Recent harvests had highlighted the instability of agricultural production as a result of fluctuating weather conditions. In addition to the establishment of reserve stocks, high priority should therefore be given to the expansion of controlled irrigation facilities. FAO and WMO should study rainfall patterns and their likely effect on agricultural production. More active cooperation with international organizations was also referred to as desirable, in particular concerning irrigation and drainage problems.

46. Several delegates stressed the need for developing countries to take fuller advantage of the favourable opportunities for forest products on world markets. Particular attention should be paid to the development of forest industries and to forest management.

47. The Conference noted the decision of the Sixty-First Council Session that the practice of preparing the Director-General's annual report on the State of Food and Agriculture in a preliminary version should be discontinued The report would henceforth be issued only in a final version, and would concentrate on the analysis of trends and policies. The needs of the governing bodies of FAO and of the public for up-to-date information would be met mainly through periodic reports for publication in the Monthly Bulletin of Agricultural Economics and Statistics (in particular the July/August and November issues). The Conference accepted this procedure on an experimental basis with a view to examining it again at its next session in the light of experience.

48. It was suggested that future issues of the State of Food and Agriculture should include information on inland fisheries, the amount of total development assistance devoted to agriculture, the analysis of rainfall patterns in important producing areas, and food supplies and consumption (including mothers' milk). It was noted that it was planned to include a special chapter on food and nutrition in the 1974 issue, while in 1975 the main topic would be the mid-term review and appraisal of progress in DD2. In connection with the latter work it was suggested that detailed analyses should be made not only of the constraints on increasing production in the developing countries but also of the reasons for the success of certain of these countries in increasing their production.

Sahelian zone operations

49. The Conference considered the documents on the Sahelian Emergency Relief Operations of the UN system and the Summary Report of the Multidonor Mission to assess the food-aid necessary in 1973-74 to the six drought stricken Sahelian countries (Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Upper Volta).

50. The debate was explicit in that all countries expressed deep concern with a situation where whole populations were so exposed to the vagaries of the weather, All speakers paid tribute to the efforts of the governments themselves, the Permanent Inter-State Committee and the bilateral donors, both governmental and non-governmental They also noted with satisfaction the prompt and pertinent measures taken by FAO, which was the focal point for coordinating the efforts of the UN system, in cooperation with WFP and other international organizations. A spirit of cooperation had prevailed between donors both within and without the UN system. The views expressed showed that if a second call for assistance was made, it would receive a willing response. Many speakers had also referred to the need for a more thorough examination of the problems which caused drought conditions in the Sahel and their remedy.

51. The Conference heard an address by the Minister for Agriculture of the Republic of Upper Volta and Chairman of the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control, speaking on behalf of the six Sudano-Sahelian countries, who thanked the international community for its generous. assistance in 1972-73 and the international news media for its perseverance in focussing attention on the problems of the Sahel. He stated that the rains, which had shown some promise for a better harvest in August 1973 had failed in September and October and the expected harvest had not materialized. Urgent help was needed in the coming months if the spectre of famine was to be removed. As a result of the failure of the harvest, the food needs of the six countries would be more than those estimated by the multidonor mission and would go as high as 1.2 million tons. He stressed that the emergency relief operations undertaken by FAO through its Office for Sahelian Relief Operations (OSRO) should therefore be continued with particular reference to harmonization of the transport of outside supplies, internal transportation, storage, special measures for remote and inaccessible areas, and seed in 1973-74, as also' recommended by the multidonor mission. He added that it would be necessary to look beyond the immediate future and that the Heads of States in their meeting at Ouagadougou in September 1973 had defined the common strategy to control drought and had suggested specific measures for this purpose.

52. The Conference felt that continued assistance during 1973-74 was needed and called upon governments, other bilateral donors and non-governmental organizations, together with the UN system as coordinated by FAO, to provide generous help in terms of food grains, protective foods, nutritional needs and the other logistical requirements, recommended by the multidonor mission Offers were made by governments to provide assistance.

53. The Conference also attached considerable importance to FAO's contribution to sustained efforts in the medium and long term to tackle the causes and effects of drought, which were being coordinated by the United Nations for the UN System. These medium and long-term measures would include inter alia the harnessing of both surface and groundwater resources.

54. The Conference also felt that emergency measures should be taken in the fields of nutrition, public health, animal health and protection and the supply of animal feed.

55. The Conference adopted the following resolution:

Resolution 1/73



Recalling the Economic and Social Council Resolutions 1759 (LIV) of 18 May 1973 and 1797 (LV) of 11 July 1973 on Aid to the Sudano-Sahelian Populations threatened with Famine, and the General Assembly Resolution 3054 (XXVIII) of 17 October 1973 on consideration of the economic and social situation in the Sudano-Sahelian region stricken by drought and measures to be taken for the benefit of that region,

Noting with satisfaction the special efforts of the Director-General, in concert with the Secretary-General and other members of the United Nations system and bilateral donors in providing speedy and effective assistance to the drought-stricken countries and peoples of the Sudano-Sahelian zone of West African

Further noting with appreciation the dispatch under the sponsorship of FAO, at the request of the Permanent Inter-State Committee on Drought Control in the Sahel, of a Multidonor Mission to visit the Sahelian countries in order to assess their food and nutritional requirements for 1973-74,

1. Expresses its appreciation of the generous contributions made and support given by Governments, international organizations and voluntary aid agencies to the operations of the United Nations system, and the unstinted efforts of the affected countries themselves to collaborate with each other in ensuring the optimum utilization of al] assistance,

2. Appeals to Member Governments and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to give the most favourable response possible to the recommendations made by the Multidonor Mission taking into account the comments related to food assistance, and to the measures recommended by the Director-General and the Secretary-General for implementing them,

3. Requests the Director-General that in his recommendations about food assistance, subsequent developments with respect to actual harvests, and special conditions concerning inland transport in certain land-locked countries, should be taken into account,

4. Further requests the Director-General and the Permanent Inter-State Committee to use the experience gained from the present relief operations in continuing assistance to the countries concerned during 1973-74, with particular reference to harmonizing the transport of outside supplies, pre-positioning of stocks in remote and inaccessible areas, seeds, feed, storage and transport requirements, public health and nutritional needs of vulnerable groups, and animal health programmes.

5. Urges the Director-General to ensure full cooperation with the Special Sahelian Office, established for the coordination, in cooperation with the Permanent Inter-State Committee, of the medium and long-term Activities of the Organizations of the United Nations system which would include inter alia the harnessing of surface and ground water resources of the Sahelian zone,

6. Requests that the Director-General inform the Council, at its Sixty-Third Session, of further developments and action taken.

(Adopted 27 November 1973)

Commodity problems

56. The Conference reviewed the current and prospective world commodity situation and examined the main issues arising from it. In 1972-73, commodity markets were characterized by supply shortages, sharp price increases and declining carryover stocks. Food and feed products, some tropical beverages and a number of agricultural raw materials were all affected. The value of world agricultural exports in 1972 rose by 15 percent, but only about 7 percent in real terms. However, as in earlier years, the increase in exports from developed countries was greater than that in exports from the developing countries, as a result of which the share of the latter in world agricultural trade showed a further decline.

57. One of the major causes for the dramatic change in world agricultural commodity markets was the simultaneous occurrence of production setbacks in a number of major producing and consumer countries which resulted in a reduction in supplies, a sharp rise in import demand and heavy drawing on carryover stocks, particularly those of wheat. The price rises were also accentuated by recurrent monetary disturbances and by some speculation in commodity markets. Besides these short-term factors, some longer-term tendencies also appeared to have been at work. There had been a slowing down in the growth of agricultural output in the last decade. Surplus output of some commodities had been curtailed by supply management policies in the developed countries. Increasing difficulties in raising per caput production were experienced in developing countries due to rising population and growing dependence on important inputs like fertilizers which were not available in adequate quantities. Further, there was an increasing demand for protein-rich foods and feeds due to changing consumption patterns

58. While the unusual combination of short-term factors that had operated in 1972-73 was unlikely to recur, it was generally felt that world agricultural commodity markets had entered a new phase which, because of the longer-term factors mentioned, would be characterized by greater instability in supplies and prices than had been experienced in recent years. In this context, the Conference felt that a more intensive examination of the factors at work in the current situation was needed, including an analysis of policy implications.

59. The Conference agreed on the need for the developing countries to increase their agricultural production for both domestic use and for export, to improve marketing and to expand processing of their agricultural produce. For this purpose, there was need for the development of an appropriate infrastructure of institutions and technology and for a more diversified economy. Such a development would add value to agricultural output and bring about more rural activity and employment. In this effort, the developing countries needed the cooperation of the developed countries and their technical and financial assistance.

60. The Conference fully recognized the importance of growth of international trade, particularly of exports from developing countries. In this context, delegates stressed the importance for trade in agricultural products, including processed commodities, of the reduction or elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, such as variable levies, quantitative restrictions and hygiene regulation's, and the elimination of subsidized exports.

61. The Conference welcomed the intensive commodity consultations, which had been initiated under UNCTAD Resolution 83(III) and Resolution 7 (VII) of the UNCTAD Committee on Commodities, and which ''(a) should examine problems in the field of trade liberalization and pricing policy, and (b) should aim to present concrete proposals to governments designed to expand trade in products of export interest to the developing countries and thus contribute to the growth of their foreign exchange earnings as well as to their increased participation in market growth by (i) improving their access to world markets, and (ii) securing stable, remunerative and equitable prices for primary products ''.

62. The Conference noted that the FAO intergovernmental commodity groups were to be used as the fore for a number of consultations to be convened under the UNCTAD resolutions. This decision provided these groups with an opportunity of making a significant contribution to the development of solutions to the problems confronting governments in the commodity field.

63. The Conference attached great importance to current intergovernmental efforts aiming at trade liberalization under GATT and UNCTAD. It warmly welcomed the Declaration adopted at the ministerial meeting in Tokyo which initiated a new round of multilateral trade negotiations, It welcomed in particular the statement in the Declaration that the developed countries did not ''expect reciprocity for commitments made by them in the negotiations to reduce or remove tariff and other barriers to the trade of developing countries''. It also welcomed the recognition by the developed countries of the importance of maintaining and improving the Generalized System of Preferences and of " the importance of the application of differential measures to developing countries in ways which will provide special and more favourable treatment for them in areas of the negotiation where this is feasible and appropriate'', The Conference recommended that the Director-General and the FAO bodies concerned with commodity questions should be guided by these principles in their contributions to the multilateral trade negotiations and to the FAO/UNCTAD intensive intergovernmental consultations and in all other related work.

64. The Conference believed that the FAO Secretariat should make an effective contribution both to the multilateral trade negotiations in the GATT and to the intensive commodity consultations to be held under the UNCTAD resolutions and requested the Director-General to give all possible support to these initiatives within the resources available. This contribution should not be limited to the provision of information and analysis, but should also include advice on policy alternatives.

65. The Conference felt that special attention should be given to the problems of instability of markets. The recent history of attempts to establish or renew international commodity agreements or other measures of market stabilization had been very disappointing. The new phase of instability in commodity markets could have serious repercussions on foreign exchange earnings and growth of trade and, for some commodities, could lead to increased competition from synthetics and substitutes. The Conference therefore felt that renewed efforts were needed to seek solutions and stressed the need for an examination in depth of the reasons for the lack of success hitherto of international efforts in this field.

Fishery problems

66. The Conference considered a document before it which contained a review of the current status of world fisheries and their problems.

67. The Conference unanimously recognized that the Technical Conference on Fishery Management and Development held in Vancouver, had been valuable, and endorsed the recommendations made by that conference, It expressed its gratitude to the Government of Canada for hosting and financing the conference.

68. In considering problems of management the Conference noted that as a result of the Third Law of the Sea Conference FAO might have to play an increased role in studying problems of management and assisting countries and regional bodies in their solution, and that partial implementation of this role, since it would be technical, need not wait for the conclusions of the Law of the Sea Conference, The Conference hoped that FAO would be in a position to cope with these increased tasks.

69. The establishment of the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission by the Sixty-First Council Session was noted with satisfaction. In this regard the Conference emphasized the value of the regional fishery bodies established within the framework of FAO and endorsed their activities concerning the rational utilization of fishery resources.

70. The Conference expressed concern regarding the high level of spoilage during distribution of fish and wastage of valuable protein food through discarding of non-marketable fish at sea as trash fish. The need for FAO and other programmes to provide technical assistance to developing countries in improving marketing through better preservation, storage and distribution infrastructure was emphasized. In this connexion the hosting of the Technical Conference on Fishery Products by the Japanese Government (Tokyo, 4-11 December 1973) was commended.

71. The Conference emphasized that the questions of development and management should be considered simultaneously in promoting the rational exploitation of fishery resources. Recognizing that the problems of fishery management would become more acute in the coming years as fishing effort continued to increase, it urged FAO to promote close monitoring of living aquatic resources on a continuous basis, serving the governments by keeping them abreast of scientific and technological developments relating to stock evaluation and management methods, by disseminating relevant information, and promoting scientific work on survey and evaluation of fishery resources through regional bodies, or field projects.

72. As regards unconventional species it was recognized that more surveys and technological investigations were required to make use of these resources aiming at maximum protein yields for human consumption.

73. The Conference drew attention to the need for assistance from FAO in the field of joint ventures. Undoubtedly such agreements had benefits for developing countries through the transfer of technology and training of local personnel, as well as for developed countries. However, joint venture arrangements were in some cases, through inexperience, agreed upon on terms which were unfavourable to the developing countries. The Conference therefore urged FAO to play a more active role in this field and to assist developing countries in negotiations leading to such agreements. In this respect, the Conference felt that although well prepared publications on this subject were useful, it was of greater practical importance that the Organization should always be ready to give help and advice, for instance by way of collecting data on trade, fishery products specifications and market prices which would serve to overcome the lack of knowledge on market outlets on the part of the developing countries.

74. The Conference recognizing the importance of an integrated approach to fishery development planning, emphasized the critical need for more and better statistics and renewed its request for additional specialized assistance from FAO to aid attempts to establish reliable national fishery statistics systems. The Conference, drawing attention to the increasing technical responsibilities of FAO, emphasized the benefits to be gained from an integrated multi-disciplinary approach to data collection, analysis and dissemination, which should embrace trade and economic data as well as resource statistics and environmental data. Attention should be paid to the biomass approach in the development of the scientific basis for management.

75. The high priority which must be attached to fisheries training and education, and to associated extension services, if national fisheries development plans were to be fulfilled, was emphasized by the Conference. The Conference urged that FAO should give even greater assistance than in the past in this respect, both at the national and regional level.

76. The work being carried out by FAO in assisting certain countries with perspective studies of agricultural (including fisheries) development was recognized by the Conference which requested the Director-General to expand and extend such work to other nations.

77. The Conference emphasized the importance of the artisanal sector of most developing fisheries for the production of high-value protein food for local consumption and export. The Conference stressed the need for intensified efforts in this sector in view of its potential for employment and for raising the standard of living in remote fishing communities. Although the artisanal fishery predominantly exploited fishing grounds and resources which were of minor interest or not accessible to industrial fisheries, the risk of competition and the resultant need for coordination of development activities relating to these two types of fisheries should be considered. Realizing the complex character of artisanal fisheries, the Conference stressed the importance of an integrated approach and recommended that FAO intensify its activities in assisting the development of artisanal fisheries including relevant background studies and extension work,

78. The Conference endorsed the activities of the International Indian Ocean Fishery Survey and Development Programme, the International Project for Development of the Fisheries in the Eastern Central Atlantic and the South China Sea Fishery Development and Coordinating Programme.

79. The Conference emphasized the importance of developing national capabilities to participate actively in all aspects of fishery research, exploitation and management, which entailed the training of scientists for fishery surveys, stock assessment and protection of fishery resources and aquaculture from pollution. The Conference stressed the need for assessing the training and manpower requirements of the developing countries in fisheries science and agreed that the regional fishery bodies established within the framework of FAO could be an effective mechanism in carrying out that assessment.

80. The Conference, noting that certain existing institutions could be developed into centres for training in various disciplines of fisheries science, and noting further that some governments were prepared to accept trainees for education in such centres, urged FAO to identify those centres to initiate training programmes under those governments, with FAO support through extra-budgetary funds when required.

81. The Conference emphasized the importance of aquaculture in meeting the increasing demand of the world for high quality fish protein especially at a time when population pressure might create a food shortage, and recommended that FAO intensify its activities in this sector which would not only provide food but would also give further employment possibilities to the vast labour force available in developing countries as well as export earnings in these countries. The Conference noted that the cost of production through aquaculture should he reduced by the adoption of efficient techniques and therefore adequate research support would have to be given by FAO as well as by governments in order to improve present culture techniques, seed production, and the preparation of inexpensive feeds and effective control of diseases.

82. The Conference noted that rational management of fishery resources and their speedy development required an adequate data base for decision-making and programme implementation. It recognized that the preparation of fishery development projects in developing countries was often based on inadequate data and therefore there was a very clear need for assistance in this field both by providing direct help in drawing up projects and in establishing biological, economic and technological data collection as well as catch and effort statistics that were required for fishery resource evaluation studies and management decisions.

83. The Conference noted with satisfaction FAO's leading role in the protection of living aquatic resources from pollution and the protection of the environment from degradation, and urged that FAO progressively increase, as required, its activities in this field in order to provide adequate advice for decision-making on management of the aquatic environment and on the regulation of waste disposal with the aim of protecting living resources and fisheries. In this regard the Conference noted with approval that FAO was convening a consultation on the protection of living resources and fisheries from pollution in the Mediterranean. The Conference noted further that FAO maintained close collaboration with various other UN Organizations concerned with environmental issues and recognized that support by UNEP was required to strengthen some of the ongoing activities undertaken and the services maintained by FAO in this field that were of significant importance for the developing countries.

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