From the podium

From the podium


His Excellency Marcus Vinicius Pratini De Morăes (Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply of the Federative Republic of Brazil)

Honourable Heads of State and Government,
Mr Chairman,
Mr Director-General,
Distinguished Heads of Delegations,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

The commitments that Brazil assumed at the 1996 World Food Summit are being put into practice and translated into social achievements that did not happen spontaneously.

Through adverse international conditions to developing countries during the second half of the 1990s, Brazil's social and economic improvements succeeded due to the relentless efforts of individuals, the civil society and the Government, which has contributed in many ways to these advancements. Inflation control, in itself, was certainly a policy with wide social consequences and it has achieved what many considered impossible: to control inflation and, at the same time, to raise labour income to activate the economy and to maintain society's support for the Government's economic policy.

As President Cardoso put it: "Inflation is the most unfair form of taxation. It is paid by the poorest...low income workers and the legion of socially excluded of the industrialized Brazil see their scarce earnings devaluate day by day. In this sense, reducing inflation is the most efficient social policy. To fight hunger, to give priority to public expenditures through efficient social programmes are the Brazilian Government's obligation. But, only price stability can provide the conditions for the sustainable growth of production and jobs, as well as for the distribution of income and the reduction of the gap between the rich, modern and efficient Brazil, and the poor that lacks fulfilment of its basic needs".

This was just the beginning of a process. The reforms that were implemented after the Plan of Economic Stabilization have sustained price stability and guaranteed long-term gains to labourers and to the poor.

From 1995 to 2001, the average labourer's income grew 27 percent in relation to the period 1991-1994. Minimum wage, social security and social assistance grew over 60 percent between 1994 and 2001. Twelve million Brazilians have overcome the poverty line. The reduction in the number of poor was not a temporary phenomenon; it is consolidated and irreversible. Poverty reduction was reflected in an increase of food consumption and of consumer goods. Life expectancy has increased by 6.6 years in relation to the beginning of the 1980s and regional differences have diminished. According to UNDP, there has been an increase of 5.64 percent in the human development index from 1990 to 1999.

The Government's ultimate objective is still social inclusion based on the equal participation of men and women.

The federal expenditure figures during the 1990s leave no doubt about the Government's priorities for distributing budget resources with the agreement of Congress. The control of inflation since 1994 has taken place in the light of an increase of expenditures in the social areas.

Since the 1940s, Brazil has developed food and nutrition programmes. Among these, the National Programme for School Nutrition, of high social impact, provides over 37 million students in elementary and pre-school with one daily meal. This programme received international recognition as one of the largest social programmes in the western world and the only one that does not restrict or discriminate beneficiaries. All municipalities receive red tape-free resources directly in order to provide lunch for school children. In 1995, US$ 230 million were spent on this programme. By 2002, this expenditure has grown 53 percent to US$ 360 million.

In order to reach further 31.7 million Brazilians with social programmes of direct income transference, by means of coordinate actions between the health, education, labour, social, agriculture and food supply sectors, Brazil's federal budget has a provision of US$ nine billion.

It took Brazil 50 years in order to consolidate itself as an industrialized nation. However, it took us only a decade to enter the globalized economy.

Priority was given to investments in areas like education, research, technological and scientific development. Nevertheless, the most visible results were achieved in the agricultural sector and, in that regard, I must state that Brazil has advanced enormously.

Agricultural productivity has increased 70 percent in the last ten years. In 2001, Brazilian Agribusiness exported US$ 24 billion. In eight years, poultry production has grown by 97 percent, pork production by 67 percent and beef production by 30 percent. Brazil is the world's largest producer of coffee, oranges and sugarcane. Brazil is the world's second largest producer of soybeans and has the world's largest commercial cattle herd, fed exclusively on pasture.

But, this is still not enough. In the last eight years, the whole production chain has been stimulated by concrete actions which have placed the country in a new era of agribusiness. Good quality, high sanitary standards, competitiveness and environmental sustainability are valued features in our products.

Nowadays, in Brazil, forests and animals are better protected, cities are cleaner and corporations have learned how to use natural resources without devastating the environment. If we compare 2002 to 1980, we note that air pollution in big cities has been reduced by half.

Agricultural productivity already surpasses the levels registered by the richest countries. Significant efforts in the promotion of sustainable development practices in agriculture, cattle breeding, fisheries and forestry have assured a sufficient and safe food supply.

All commitments assumed by Brazil in 1996, during the World Food Summit, are being put into practice. This includes the support of a fair trade system for food and agricultural products. In this sense, during the World Trade Organization Ministerial Meeting in Doha last year, Brazil worked towards achieving a commitment by all countries to start global negotiations aimed at: "substantial improvements in market access; reductions of all forms of export subsidies; and substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support".

At the same meeting, Brazil supported the "promotion of food and agricultural trade policies, as well as general trade policies, that guarantee food safety for all by means of a trade system which is market oriented and fair".

It is fundamental, in the framework of efforts made by developing countries, that they can develop their comparative advantages without generating protectionist reactions from the richer countries.

Protectionist measures are an anachronism and yet they seem to consolidate more and more. These measures are clearly incompatible with the values of economic cooperation at the international level.

Brazilian agribusiness is a highly dynamic segment of economic activities, and it contributes in a positive way to public awareness and allows the Government to give continuity to poverty reduction policies. Sales of agricultural products are reflected directly in the promotion of rural investments and in the generation of income and rural jobs on a sustainable basis. The only reason why progress is not more significant is that Brazilian agribusiness potential is hindered by international protectionist measures that hit competitive producing countries which are constantly jeopardized by the imposition of protectionist barriers to their trade by rich countries.

Studies developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimate that restrictions to developing countries' exports, allied to the negative effects of agricultural policies of the rich countries on international commodity prices, cost the developing countries around US$ 20 billion per year. While the import tariff average in the industrial sector is three percent, agricultural products are subject to tariffs that amount to 60 percent in OECD countries.

As an example, Brazil is the world's most competitive producer of sugarcane, yet our sugar and our ethanol are subject to restrictions such as insignificant quotas and additional tariffs charged over a reference price. These restrictions hinder us from selling our products to important markets.

Brazilian orange juice, in order to enter certain rich countries markets, must pay additional tariffs of up to 40.7, 54.9 and 139.2 percent.

Subsidies given to agricultural products create an artificial competitiveness, besides distorting commercial flows and reducing commodity prices, which are fundamental items in the developing countries trade balance.

The OECD estimates that if its Member Countries reduced ten percent of their global domestic subsidies, which amount to US$ one billion per day, international prices of agricultural products would increase by 2.2 percent, hence benefiting developing countries.

The European Union, for example, spends up to €100 billion a year in trade, distorting domestic support. United States programmes, such as the Loan Deficiency Payment, practically guarantee a fixed price for American producers, also distorting international market prices.

The Doha Mandate enforces the Brazilian request to disassociate support from production, the so-called "decoupling", in order to avoid domestic policies from creating agricultural surpluses and artificially low prices, so damaging producing countries.

The Doha Ministerial Declaration, although falling short of Brazilian expectations, reflects the wish of the majority of countries for deep changes in the international agricultural trade.

FAO gave a meaningful sign at this direction by creating a training unit for developing countries to learn the skills of agricultural trade negotiations. This most praising initiative nevertheless lives too much to be desired. If FAO is truly engaged in the fight against hunger and poverty it has also to define a strategy that goes alongside the agricultural trade agreements in motion at WTO. By being permissive with a few rich countries blindfolded with the selfish idea that trade is not important for food security or allowing the Secretariat to prepare agendas for Conferences, even at the regional level, to discuss matters FAO members strongly restricted the Organization to deal with, like multifunctionality of agriculture, the food and agriculture organization gives a different sign: that is slipping on the road we are all trying to build to the alleviation of hunger, by half, in 2015.

Sanitary and phytosanitary measures are another important issue in agriculture and relate to the Brazilian request for a revision of the notification procedures in order to clarify the kind of measures that should be subject to mandatory notification to the WTO. This issue is of special interest due to the negative impacts that derive from the application of non-scientifically based measures, together with human and animal health concerns, often used for protectionist purposes.

Madame Chairperson, societies that are exposed to the risks and opportunities brought about by globalization have doubtlessly seen their possibilities of action multiplied and diversified. Accordingly, Brazilian society is not immune to uncertainties that derive from the vertiginous changes of the international order.

During the last eight years, transformations undergone by Brazil's state and society have prepared us to face the challenge of sustainable and equitable development, as well as to consolidate ideals such as food security, food safety and the human right to access to sufficient and nutritious food.

Six years after the World Food Summit, the Brazilian Government understands that, although important advances were achieved, Brazil still has a long way to go towards the building of a more just and fair society. The Brazilian Government is determined to keep the commitments assumed in 1996 on its agenda.

Much has been done but a lot more is needed. This is the essential sense, the new starting point and the horizon of our commitment to the future.

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