COMMITTEE ON COMMODITY PROBLEMS
REPORT OF THE 17TH SESSION OF THE INTERGOVERNMENTAL GROUP ON MEAT
Cape Town, Republic of South Africa
II. MAJOR POLICY AND ECONOMIC ISSUES
III. INTERNATIONAL ACTION ON LIVESTOCK AND MEAT
IV. OTHER MATTERS
1. The Seventeenth Session of the Intergovernmental Group on Meat was held in Cape Town from 12 to 14 November 1998 by kind invitation of the Government of the Republic of South Africa. It was attended by delegates from the following countries and member organizations: Austria, Côte d'Ivoire, Denmark, Ecuador, Eritrea, European Community, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Namibia, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa, Spain, The Sudan, Sweden, Tunisia, Uganda, United States of America, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Observers attended from the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)and the International Meat Secretariat (IMS).
2. The Minister for Agriculture and Land Affairs, Mr Derek Hanekom, welcomed delegates to the Seventeenth Session of the Intergovernmental Group on Meat convened alongside the "Meet in Africa" leather seminar programme organized by the International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO and highlighted the significance of the livestock sector for African economies. The FAO Representative in South Africa, Mrs Florence Chenoweth, responded by thanking the Government of the Republic of South Africa, on behalf of the Director-General of FAO, for its hospitality. The Session of the Intergovernmental Group was opened by Mr W.A. Lamadé, Chief, Basic Foodstuffs Service, on behalf of the Director-General.
3. The Session elected Dr G. Br-ückner (South Africa) as Chairperson, Mr E. Zimmerl (Austria) as First Vice-Chairperson and His Excellency, the Minister of Livestock, Mr Rakotondrasoa (Madagascar) as Second Vice-Chairperson.
4. The provisional agenda (CCP:ME 98/1) was adopted.
5. The Group expressed its sincere thanks to the Government of South Africa for hosting its Seventeenth Session and the hospitality extended to delegates.
6. The Group reviewed the world meat situation in 1998 and the outlook for 1999 with the help of document CCP:ME 98/2. The Group expressed concern about the slowing down in global economic growth and the negative impact of the financial difficulties in a number of countries on the world meat sector. Exports to the Russian market had collapsed from August 1998 onwards following the rouble devaluation with depressing effects on international prices of beef and especially of pig meat. The impact on domestic prices in the EC had been exacerbated by a contraction of domestic demand for pigmeat, which coincided with the recovery of beef consumption from the BSE crisis, and the ending of precautionary pig slaughter measures launched in the wake of the outbreaks of classical swine fever in 1997. It was also noted that severe drought problems in New Zealand in early 1998 had resulted in a decline in sheep and cattle numbers and expected smaller production of both beef and lamb in that country in 1999. Clarifications were sought on the policies adopted by several countries to promote exports in 1998, in particular through credit guarantees or donations. In this context, the potentially harmful effects that permanent and substantial food aid could have on commercial trade and on the livestock sectors of the recipient countries were noted. Overall, the Group agreed that the economic difficulties in several regions were likely to continue to influence the meat sector in 1999 and that a marked recovery was unlikely.
7. The Group reviewed the medium-term outlook for meat to 2005 with the assistance of document CCP: ME 98/6. It noted that the document had been prepared at an earlier stage in the evolution of the current economic difficulties in some regions in the world. The results presented in the slide presentation had, however, used the recently revised income projections of the World Bank.
8. The Group accepted the broad thrust of the document. It noted that among the various factors which could influence trends in meat production, consumption and trade to the year 2005, the prospects for slower economic growth in Asia and the Russian Federation and other parts of the world might have a stronger effect on the projection results than others. In light of this, some delegates considered certain aspects of these results as too optimistic. Moreover, it was pointed out that the projected expansion in meat production presupposed a leap in feed grain production as well as an enlargement of production structures, which might not be achievable given the additional grain required to meet adequately the food requirements of a growing human population.
9. On balance, the Group recognized the difficulties in assessing the medium-term prospects in the current circumstances of uncertainty. It considered, therefore, that the results of the projections would require adjustments in order to take into account evolving economic developments. Accordingly, the Group urged the Secretariat to prepare a revised version of the meat projections for the next session, when the global situation would, hopefully, be more predictable.
10. This item was reviewed with the help of document CCP: ME 98/7. The Group agreed that biotechnology was a topical issue worthy of its consideration. This new scientific concept did not only extend to many areas of application from genetic modification, animal health and yield improvement to new livestock products, but it also raised public health, consumer safety, environmental and ethical concerns. They could also have economic consequences on the livestock sector, including trade in livestock products. In this context, it was pointed out that breakthroughs in biotechnology, directed at improving the productivity of livestock husbandry in developing countries, could generate considerable benefits for this group of countries. However, the Group noted that in areas where research on biotechnology was conducted and funded predominantly by the private sector in developed countries, this could constrain the access to its results by developing countries.
11. The Group acknowledged that the novelty of these technologies necessitated a prudent approach to commercial applications on a wide scale, as the possible implications might be far reaching and not yet fully known. In this context, the critical importance of thorough risk assessment of biotechnology products and processes was emphasized. It was also stressed that the results of such risk analysis needed to be widely disseminated in order to enable producers and consumers alike to make informed decisions on the utilization of the technologies and the genetically engineered products generated, on the basis of transparent communication and labelling as currently applied in some countries. Based on these considerations the Group requested the Secretariat to undertake the following work:
i) monitoring and regular reporting to the Group on developments in the application of biotechnology relevant to the sector; on the results of risk assessments undertaken in member countries, including the methodologies applied; and on the impact regarding competitiveness among different types of meat and among countries;
ii) analysis of the particular biotechnology issues facing the developing countries.
12. The Group reviewed the changes in livestock and meat policies implemented by governments since the last meeting in 1996, with the help of document CCP:ME 98/3 and its supplement. These documents had been prepared drawing from questionnaire responses to the Secretariat and other sources of information. While it was recognized that some progress had been achieved since the last review in reducing the distorting effects of government policies, such as excessive border protection measures and export subsidies. Some concern was expressed about the slow pace of these developments, as well as a rise in the application of export credit guarantees. Various delegates provided clarifications and updated information on the policies of their countries. The Group was briefed about the EC Commission's reform proposal, Agenda 2000.
13. The Group was informed of a dilemma faced by some African countries. On the one hand, exports were constrained by insufficient standards of slaughterhouses expected by importing countries. On the other hand, cheap subsidized imports had a negative impact on the meat sector of these countries which inhibited the allocation of resources needed to improve these abattoirs. An appeal was, therefore, made for assistance to abattoir improvement endeavours, particularly in Africa, which, in turn, would lend support to the strengthening of legislation on animal health and meat safety currently being put into place. In a related matter, the Group's attention was drawn to the need for appropriate animal production standards. However, it was noted that universal norms were difficult to establish as they depended on cultural value systems. In conclusion, the Group recognized that a growing number of issues of an economic, technical and scientific nature were influencing Government policies and would need to be considered in future reviews.
14. The Group supported the recommendations contained in paragraph 35 of the document. In addition, it requested the Secretariat to monitor and report on the results of work undertaken by governments and research institutions regarding the potential impact on meat production, consumption and trade as well as on other economic aspects of outbreaks of transmissible diseases in major exporting countries.
15. The Group endorsed the proposals for changes to the Guidelines for International Cooperation in the Livestock and Meat Sector contained in document CCP:ME 98/4 which had been based on the response to a questionnaire circulated to members.
16. The Group agreed on the need for the Group to advance project work and to take decisions on CFC-related matters in the intervals between its formal sessions, particularly as related to its sponsoring function; to this end, the Group endorsed, in principle, the mechanism proposed in paragraphs 8 and 9 of document CCP:ME 98/5, and established a Sub-Group on CFC-related intersessional matters with the Chairperson and the two Vice-Chairpersons as members. The Group considered it essential for the Sub-Group to draw on specialized expertise from a number of sources to cope with its task. One such source could be FAO's technical divisions, on the assumption that FAO would only exceptionally be the Project Executing Agency (PEA) and hence not face conflicts of interest. The work of the Sub-Group would not entail any additional costs to FAO.
17. The Group recognized that in order to meet its obligations to the CFC as the Supervisory Body for projects, it would need to adopt mechanisms to ensure continuity of supervisory activities between its sessions. Such machinery had to be cost-effective and flexible. After reviewing the logistical and financial implications of delegating such functions to an outside body, the Group agreed to follow the precedents set by a number of other IGGs serviced by FAO and established a Supervisory Expert Group (SEG) on a temporary basis. The SEG would comprise three members with suitable expertise in each project area. One of them would be an FAO staff member in order to ensure an appropriate link with the Organization's secretariat responsibilities to the Group. The SEG would analyze project implementation reports; review the financial position and transactions and the results achieved by the PEA; and assess their conformity with the project objectives. The terms of reference of the SEG would be as set out in Annex A of document CCP: ME 98/5. This arrangement would remain in force until the Group's next session when it would be subjected to a review of its effectiveness and reconsideration of its future.
18. The Group reviewed the progress made in the implementation of the one meat project financed by the CFC to-date, "Development of Value-added Meat Products in Sub-Saharan Africa", Phase I, with the help of the Mid-term Evaluation Report (CCP:ME98/CRS1) prepared by Winrock International, the institution entrusted with its supervision. On the basis of the content of this report, some delegates requested clarifications on some operational aspects of project execution. It was pointed out that projects implemented in developing countries could not be subjected to the same stringent evaluation criteria as those executed in the developed countries. The Group agreed to delegate follow-up to the review of the Mid-Term report to the Sub-Group on CFC-related intersessional matters established in para 17 above. The Sub-Group would seek clarifications on the questions raised by the Group regarding certain aspects of project implementation. Subject to satisfactory assurances given by Winrock International that the problems had been addressed adequately, the Sub-Group would, on behalf of the Group, sponsor the second phase of the project on "Development and Promotion of Value-added Meat Products in Sub-Saharan Africa", submitted by the Government of Uganda.
19. The Group reviewed one project profile, submitted by the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, and four project profiles submitted by ILRI. They were contained in document CCP:ME 98/CRS2. These proposals were:
1. Development of Value-added Meat Products in Asia
2. Improving Smallholder Livestock Trade and Production in East, Central and Southern Africa
3. Improving Trade and Marketing of Ruminant Meat in Southeast Asia
4. Enhancing Beef Trade in Central America
5. Reviving Sheep and Goat Production to Boost Meat Supplies to Urban Markets of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
20. The Group noted that more timely receipt of the project profiles would have been conducive to a more thorough review of the project objectives and components. In recognition of the considerable importance to the developing countries concerned, it endorsed the five projects proposals in principle. The Sub-Group on CFC-related intersessional matters, established in paragraph 17 above, was requested to oversee the steps to be taken in formulating the full project proposals and, when satisfied that the CFC's project criteria were met, to submit them, on behalf of the Group to the CFC's Consultative Committee and Executive Board.
21. The delegate of the International Meat Secretariat, a non- profit organization with the objective of promoting trade in meat and other livestock products, informed the Group of its activities, including its conference schedule. The delegate of the Common Fund for Commodities noted that the commodity development activities of his organization in countries of southern Africa would benefit from the considerable expertise available in many non-member countries, including South Africa, if they became members. The delegate of ILRI informed the Group that his Institute had considerable scientific expertise and was keen to work more closely with other organizations, particularly FAO, notably in the follow-up work on biotechnology issues.
22. The first Vice-Chairperson of the Sixth Session of the Sub-Group on Hides and Skins, Mr E. Zimmerl, introduced the report of the Sub-Group, as contained in document CCP:ME 98/8. The Intergovernmental Group on Meat endorsed the Sub-Group's report.
23. The Group requested the Director-General to determine the date and place of the Eighteenth Session, in consultation with the Chairman, taking into account the availability of resources and the schedule of other meetings.