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V. Major trends and policies in Food and Agriculture

A. Statements by heads of delegations in the general discussion
B. World Food and Agriculture situation
C. FAO activities related to environment and sustainable developments
D. Third progress report on the world conference on agrarian reform and rural development (WCARRD) programme of action
E. Commission on plant genetic resources and international undertaking: Progress report
F. Helping the least developed countries to define an agricultural development strategy
G. Implementation of the international code of conduct on the distribution and use of pesticides including the prior informed consent (PIC) clause
H. Plan of action on people's participation
I. Plan of action for the integration of women into agricultural and rural development: Progress report

A. Statements by heads of delegations in the general discussion

31. The General Discussion was opened by the Director-General. The text of his statement is given in Appendix D Following this, 121 speakers participated in the discussion: the Independent Chairman of the Council; Heads of Delegations, of which 99 were Ministers or Vice-Ministers; the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to FAO; the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund; a representative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); two liberation movements (African National Congress of South Africa and Pan Africanist Congress of Azania); the European Economic Community (EEC); the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP); and observers from four international non-governmental organizations which had consultative status with FAO. The statements of four Member Nations were inserted in the records.

B. World Food and Agriculture situation

The state of Food and Agriculture
International agricultural adjustment: Seventh progress report
Technical assistance to the Palestinian people
Forestry (tenth world forestry congress)

The state of Food and Agriculture

32. The Conference reviewed the food and agricultural situation at the world, regional and country levels on the basis of the Director-General's report, The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) 1991 and its supplement, updated by the Secretariat's introductory statement.

33. The Conference noted with concern that the overall unstable economic environment had been generally unfavourable for the global food and agricultural economy in both 1990 and 1991. The economic recession that was already affecting most industrialized countries in 1990, was worsened by the Gulf Crisis which also had negative impacts, very severe in some cases, on many developing countries. The onerous burden of external debt on developing countries, particularly in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean regions, remained a continuing serious constraint to their economic and social progress.

34. The Conference noted that many developing countries were also undertaking radical, reforms of their economic systems, often under great difficulties aggravated by external indebtedness and, in some cases, in the aftermath of war and civil strife. It also noted that the process of transition towards a market-based economy was evolving amidst considerable economic difficulties, particularly in Eastern Europe and the USSR.

35. The Conference recognized that in many developing countries structural adjustment programmes often involved the introduction of policy measures, such as the reduction of input subsidies, that had the potential to reduce food and agricultural production and worsen food security. It, therefore, welcomed FAO's policy assistance to member countries undergoing such programmes with a view to avoiding adverse impacts on their food production efforts emanating from the required budgetary constraints. The Conference noted with appreciation that widespread policy measures were underway to liberalize domestic agricultural markets in order to ensure enhanced efficiency. It wee noted, however, that in the short run this process could have negative repercussions on certain vulnerable producer and consumer groups.

36. The Conference noted with concern the initial indications of a downturn in global food production in 1991, which had followed only a modest increase in the previous year and which had just kept pace with population growth. While much of the recent slowdown in growth or reduction of production had occurred in particular in the developed countries, the aggregate increase in developing countries in 1991 had also been disappointing. The Conference expressed particular concern about the continued and alarming trend of worsening per caput food production in Africa and the poor agricultural performance in Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years. It urged FAO and donor countries to increase their technical and financial assistance to these countries. Against this background, it regretted the reduction in real terms of commitments of official assistance to agriculture during the late 1980s.

37. The Conference deplored the situation of widespread hunger and poverty that continued to afflict many developing countries, particularly in Southern Africa and the Horn of Africa. In this context, the Conference expressed concern that levels of food aid had declined in recent years and were below the needs.

38. While drawing attention to the potential impact on world food security of the depletion of global cereal stocks, a number of Member Nations cautioned that the use of a single indicator to assess world food security, such as the ratio of cereal stocks to estimates of cereal utilization, would not provide a reliable assessment of the world food security situation. They asked for an urgent and thorough reexamination of the stocking indicator and its use. The Conference noted that access to food was one of the three components of FAO's broadened concept of world food security. It urged that more emphasis be placed on factors affecting access to food in future Secretariat assessments. The Conference noted with appreciation that the Secretariat was making efforts to expand the range of indicators used in assessing world food security, and that the Committee on World Food Security would undertake a detailed review of appropriate indicators of access to food at its next session in 1992.

39. The Conference noted that the increase in the value of agricultural exports that had occurred in the late 1980s was unevenly shared. While export earnings of the developed countries had expanded significantly, the Conference noted with concern that those of developing countries had stagnated and that their agricultural terms of trade had drastically worsened. Particular concern was expressed in this regard about the situation in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. The Conference underlined that substantive reductions in protectionism in agricultural markets and wider access to them were essential for agricultural exporting countries, particularly developing countries, to expand their export earnings. It also underlined that continued high levels of protectionism seriously hampered the efforts of many countries to restructure their economies and to service and reduce their debt burdens. It also noted that in some countries or groups of countries, barriers to trade served to stabilize domestic markets, but contributed to instability in international markets.

40. The Conference, recognizing that the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations were at a crucial stage, emphasized the urgent need for their rapid and successful conclusion so as to develop a more open, viable and durable multilateral trading system that would promote growth and development to the benefit of all countries. Noting that the objectives of the Round included the substantial and progressive reduction in trade-distorting support and protection mechanisms in agriculture, the Conference also stressed the urgent need that a comprehensive package of results should include reductions in domestic support and export subsidies, as well as improvements regarding market access for the agricultural sector. The Conference stressed the need for special and differential treatment of developing countries and for achieving the fullest reductions in trade barriers on products of export interest to them. It also stressed that ways should be found to take account of the possible negative impacts of the agricultural reform process on net food-importing developing countries. The Conference requested the Director-General to convey its views on the matter to the negotiators through the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee of the Uruguay Round as a matter of urgency.

41. The Conference urged FAO, following the completion of the Uruguay Round, to prepare an assessment of the implications of the outcome of the Round on the world agricultural economy, with special reference to developing countries.

42. The Conference noted that the Uruguay Round of negotiations had not directly addressed the implications of environmental policies for trade in agricultural products. It was also pointed out that agricultural support policies in a number of developed countries had negative impacts on the environment. The Conference urged FAO to examine these issues, while bearing in mind the need to also ensure that the introduction of environmental policies would not lead to trade protectionism.

43. The Conference noted with satisfaction recent moves to establish and strengthen integration efforts by groups of developing countries to promote trade between member countries, to evolve unified trading positions vis--vis third countries and to harmonize domestic agricultural policies.

44. The Conference underlined the important roles of FAO in developing and disseminating technologies designed to raise food production under a wide range of ecological conditions in developing countries. In searching for ways to maintain and accelerate food production growth, particularly in the least developed countries, the Conference underlined the importance of the non-humid tropics for agricultural production which often lacked appropriate sustainable technologies. It urged that research be accelerated in these areas, particularly as regarded semi-arid zones where sustainable agricultural production techniques were often lacking in the face of widespread poverty and undernutrition. A stable economic environment, providing clear incentives to farmers was also a vital ingredient for successful food and agricultural development strategies.

45. The Conference noted with satisfaction that the fisheries sector continued to make increasing contributions towards the achievement of food security by creating employment opportunities and by earning foreign exchange for many Member Nations. The Conference pointed out, however, that despite these positive trends, many countries still faced constraints to expanding fishery output, including high post-harvest losses, lack of adequate fishing inputs and conflicts between small-scale and industrial fishery activities. The Conference urged FAO and donor countries to continue their support to developing countries, particularly in Africa, which required further assistance in the development of marine and inland fisheries and aquaculture.

46. Some Member Nations drew attention to some issues related to high seas fisheries, in particular the use of large-scale pelagic driftnets and their impact on living marine resources of the world's oceans and seas. The Conference noted that this problem had been discussed in various fore, including the Twenty-fifth Session of the FAO Conference (1989), the Nineteenth Session of the Committee on Fisheries (1991), and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) which had adopted Resolutions 44/225 and 45/197. The Conference stressed the importance of the full implementation of these UNGA Resolutions and noted that this issue would be considered again under the item dealing with Relations and Consultations with International Organizations.

47. Some Member Nations suggested that FAO should undertake a mission to study the agricultural conditions in the occupied Syrian Golan. They requested that the Director-General should submit a report on the results of the mission to the next FAO Conference.

48. The Conference stressed the need to highlight in the documents dealing with The State of Food and Agriculture, policy issues and implications arising from the analysis of food and agricultural sector developments. It also underlined the need to assess these developments in the perspective of longer-term trends. The Conference noted that some other documents, such as the Progress Report on International Agricultural Adjustment (IAA), discussed policy issues in the light of such trends. Some Member Nations were of the view that it would be more appropriate in the future to consider the SOFA and the Progress Report on IAA together.

International agricultural adjustment: Seventh progress report

49. The Conference reviewed progress in International Agricultural Adjustment (IAA) on the basis of the Director-General's Seventh Progress Report. The Conference agreed that wide-ranging analytical reviews of policy developments in food and agriculture were valuable and that FAO was uniquely qualified to undertake such reviews.

50. The Conference noted that food and agricultural production in the 1980s had grown at an annual rate of 3.3 percent in the developing countries, compared with the target of 4 percent of Guideline 1. It expressed concern that much lower growth rates were registered in many developing countries, with the result that per caput production had continued to decline in sub-Saharan Africa and the group of the least developed countries. It underlined the need for increased efforts to improve the growth of production in these countries.

51. The Conference noted that, in recent years, many developing countries had adopted far-reaching changes in their agricultural policies often as part of structural adjustment programmes. Also, Eastern European countries and the USSR had recently begun to introduce major reforms in agricultural policies as part of the overall transformation of their economies towards market orientation. Reform of agricultural policies in most other developed countries, however, had so far remained limited and had tended to primarily respond to domestic needs.

52. The Conference noted that physical resources used in the agriculture of the developing countries (land, irrigation, fertilizer, machinery) had continued to increase in the 1980s, but at rates below those of earlier decades. Commitments of external assistance for research, extension and training had declined, while those for the manufacture of fertilizer and pesticides had increased. Some Member Nations referred to the need for continued efforts to reduce post-harvest losses which often represented a high share of total food production.

53. The Conference noted that issues of access by the poor to productive assets, inputs and credit, as well as people's participation and the role of women in development were to be discussed under the Item on the Third Progress Report on WCARRD Programme of Action. It considered that these were policy areas of crucial importance in making progress in IAA.

54. The Conference noted with concern that food aid levels had declined in recent years and that external assistance to agriculture remained well below the target in the IAA Guidelines. It underlined the need for progress to be made towards reversing these unfavourable trends.

55. The Conference welcomed the increasing attention that was being paid by governments to health and nutrition goals in the formulation and implementation of food and agricultural policies and development projects. It noted that the International Conference on Nutrition, to be held in Rome in December 1992, would promote greater awareness of nutrition problems in all countries and would identify ways and means to tackle these problems. The Conference also noted that many countries continued to implement economic austerity measures as part of structural adjustment programmes which had the potential to adversely affect the access to food by the poor in the short-term. It underlined the need for continued efforts towards special action to mitigate such effects.

56. The Conference noted that in the area of international agricultural trade and protectionism, only a few developed countries had introduced changes in their agricultural policies which had led to reduced support for their agricultural sectors and to improved market access. In the midterm review of the GATT Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations the developed countries had committed themselves to a standstill in support and protection. Since then the general level of tariff and non-tariff barriers to imports of agricultural and agro-based products had not increased, but the average level of agricultural protection remained high. The Conference noted with concern that the international markets for agricultural products continued to be characterized by serious and widespread distortions. The Conference stressed the urgent need for a successful outcome of the Uruguay Round leading to freer trade in the interests of all countries. It welcomed the recent signs of increased flexibility in the positions of some of the major participants in the negotiations under the Uruguay Round which, it hoped, would facilitate agreement.

57. The Conference noted with satisfaction that Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC) had continued to expand. It particularly welcomed the increasing support provided to TCDC efforts by both developed and developing countries. It underlined the need for support to both Economic Cooperation among Developing Countries (ECDC) and Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC) to be continued and intensified.

58. Several Member Nations considered that the Guidelines for IAA did not fully reflect developments in the world food and agriculture situation since their adoption in 1975 and revision in 1983; nor did they fully reflect the changing perceptions concerning food and agriculture problems and the lessons of more recent experiences as to the effectiveness of different policy approaches. In this connection, particular reference was made to Guidelines 8 and 10, and some suggestions were made for possible revisions.

59. The Conference noted that there had been major new developments and changes which had a bearing on the issues addressed by the IAA Guidelines. These factors included, inter alia, the radical changes currently under way in economies in transition; changes that might follow, for example, the conclusion of the Uruguay Round, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN); the increasing relative weight in food security of factors determining access to food by the poor; the increasing importance of macroeconomics factors and market orientation in the formulation of agricultural policies in both developed and developing countries; and the growing recognition of environmental and sustainability issues.

60. The Conference agreed that the Secretariat should continue to undertake periodic four-year reviews of policies affecting world food and agriculture using the IAA Guidelines as a broad framework. It further agreed that the next report in 1995 should contain an analysis of the relevance and usefulness of existing guidelines in the light of major developments in world food and agriculture and in policy thinking. It also agreed that monitoring and reporting should be carried out with flexibility and selectivity in order to take into account changes affecting the food and agriculture sector, the evolution in thinking about development approaches and priorities and the emerging experience as to the effectiveness of different policies. In this connection, the Conference agreed that the Secretariat, in preparing reports on progress in IAA, should give particular attention to the consensus reached in a number of existing documents such as the International Development Strategy for the Fourth UN Development Decade, the Long-term Strategy for the Food and Agriculture Sector and FAO's Medium-Term Plan, as well as the results of the forthcoming conferences mentioned in the preceding paragraph, and the objectives and outcome of the Uruguay Round.

61. Some Member Nations suggested that in the future the four-yearly report on progress in IAA, prepared as indicated in the preceding paragraphs, should be discussed by the Conference together with the document on the State of Food and Agriculture.

Technical assistance to the Palestinian people

62. The Conference recalled that, at its Twenty-fifth Session in November 1989, it had requested the Director-General "to send a mission to study and evaluate the situation of the agricultural sector in the occupied Palestinian territory, taking into consideration the conditions of the farmers under the existing occupation policies and practices, and to prepare a report comprising possible technical interventions to be executed by FAO;... . It had also requested the Director-General to organize a symposium on the Palestinian agricultural sector and to include the occupied Palestinian territory in future FAO programmes and activities. The Conference had further requested the Director-General to report to the Council at its next session and to the Conference at its Twenty-sixth Session on the progress achieved in the implementation of the Resolution.

63. The Conference noted that a mission led by the former Deputy Director-General of the Organization, Mr Declan Walton, had taken place from 23 August to 6 September 1991, following an exchange of correspondence between the Director-General and the Permanent Representative of the Government of Israel regarding the fielding of the mission, as reproduced in Appendices A and B of document C 91/10. The report of the mission was before the Conference as Appendix C of document C 91/10.

64. The Conference noted that the Symposium on the Palestinian Agricultural Sector envisaged in Conference Resolution 1/89 had taken place in Rome from 9 to 11 October 1991. It had been attended by consultants and experts selected from the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the West Bank and Gaza in their personal technical capacity and by representatives from the UN organizations (the UN Office of Political and General Assembly Affairs Division for Palestinian Rights; the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA); the International Trade Centre (ITC); the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)), the League of Arab States, Al-Quds Open University, and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The Conference expressed the hope that the proceedings of the Symposium would be published as soon as possible.

65. The Conference expressed its appreciation to the Director-General for the action which he had taken, and in particular for the organization of the mission and the convening of the symposium.

66. The Conference noted that the mission had recommended possible technical interventions in the following areas:

Crop production and protection

  • - study of future of citrus production in Gaza Strip

    - additional measures for coping with phylloxera epidemic in grapes, stem borer infestation of figs, and Mediterranean fruit-fly in citrus

    - possible improvements in olive production and marketing

    - new crops, including tree crops (especially nuts)

    - introduction of facilities for testing and certification of seeds and seedlings and possibly for tissue culture

  • Livestock

  • - possible use of agricultural by-products as feed
    - improved network of micro-dairy plants
    - support for the brucellosis eradication campaign
  • Fisheries

  • - possible development of aquaculture in Gaza Strip
  • Markets/marketing

  • - strengthening of efforts to improve market intelligence, grading and packaging

    - search for new niche markets, especially in floriculture, in cooperation with project of International Trade Centre

  • Agro-industries

  • - review of development possibilities in agro-industrial fields of direct concern to FAO
  • Water problems

  • - study of long-term water problems of West Bank and Gazan agriculture

    - additional ways of using saline water for agriculture

    - arrangements for systematic maintenance and renewal of irrigation pumps

  • Land issues

  • - possibilities of strengthening rain-fed production
    - afforestation and range management
  • Institutions

  • - prepare overall plan for strengthening of extension function and of agricultural education and training

    - strengthening of research function to meet location-specific needs

    - training programme in organization of cooperatives

    - advisory service on farm management and investment in agriculture

    - programme and projects monitoring system

  • Role of women

  • - prepare programme of assistance to the organizations promoting the role of women-in-development
  • Environment

  • - protection against pollution from pesticides and over-use of fertilizers
  • The mission had pointed out that this was not a closed list, since in the course of even a few months some problems might be resolved and others might emerge. Specific action in any of these areas would need careful advance study, in greater depth than had been possible in the course of the mission, and funding would have to be arranged.

    67. The Conference endorsed the approach to technical assistance suggested by the mission. The Conference attached particular importance to action in the following areas: preparation of a comprehensive strategy as well as programes and projects to ensure the sustainability of irrigated farming; recommendations for the future of citrus production in Gaza in the light of increasing water salinity and decreasing water availability for agriculture; preparation of a comprehensive study on the development of agricultural institutions, particularly for agricultural planning, credit and marketing; preparation of detailed studies on the issues highlighted by the mission with regard to pests and diseases, soil erosion, use of agricultural by-products for livestock feed, maintenance and repair of pumps and farm equipment, and development of rangelands. The problems of environmental degradation reported by the mission were considered to deserve special attention on the part of FAO. Action in all these areas should be carried out in close cooperation with other international organizations, particularly UNDP.

    68. The Conference requested the Director-General to bring the recommendations of the mission and the conclusions of the Conference to the attention of all potential donors which might be interested in providing support for the Palestinian agricultural sector, either through FAO or directly under their own programmes. The Conference invited the Director-General to formulate projects and activities to implement the recommendations of the mission and the conclusions of the Conference, using as far as possible the resources available under the Regular Programme. The Conference also requested the Director-General to approach UNDP and other possible multilateral and bilateral donors for extra-budgetary support that might be required for specific projects formulated in the course of further work.

    Forestry (tenth world forestry congress)

    69. The Conference was informed of the outcome of the Tenth World Forestry Congress which was held in Paris in September 1991. Member Nations unanimously commended the host country, France, for the excellent arrangements made and expressed its appreciation for the strong support that FAO provided in the preparation and organization of the Congress. The Conference noted that the deliberations of the Congress had resulted in a series of conclusions and recommendations aimed at forestry practitioners and professionals and the Paris Declaration addressed to decision-makers.

    70. The Conference strongly endorsed the Paris Declaration which the Congress had adopted by acclamation. It supported the solemn appeal of the Congress to decision-makers to commit themselves to greening the world through afforestation, reforestation and sustainable forest resources management. The Conference agreed that underdevelopment, debt, poverty and the need to meet basic needs of growing populations, were major contributory factors to deforestation and resource degradation. It therefore welcomed the suggestion of the Congress that solutions be placed in the context of promoting general development and addressing problems of poverty, food and energy security, population increase and improvement of agricultural productivity.

    71. The Conference stressed the importance of ensuring that the recommendations of the Congress were followed up with concrete action. It therefore endorsed the call for actions to control threats to forests, including pollutants and emissions of greenhouse gases, to promote the active and sustainable management of forests for both wood and non-wood products, and the harmonious development of international trade in them, free of unilateral restrictions that were not in line with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

    72. The Conference supported the need to maintain or enhance the contribution of forests to development while ensuring their conservation and it called for increased international solidarity, cooperation and harmonization of action to assist developing countries in managing their forests It called for efforts to increase funding for forestry and to promote and strengthen international cooperation, particularly in the context of the Tropical Forests Action Programme (TFAP), the Mediterranean Forestry Action Programme and other global and regional programmes.

    73. The Conference further endorsed the priority given by the Congress to the need for continuing the assessment of forest resources, for cooperation in research, for promotion of public awareness on forestry issues and for popular participation in forestry activities. It welcomed the recommendation that Congress conclusions and recommendations be taken into consideration in the preparatory process of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) to be held in Brazil in 1992. It agreed that the Congress conclusions and recommendations be made available as an official document to the present FAO Conference.

    74. The Conference was gratified to note that the Congress had given specific recognition to FAO's work inter alia in the field of global forest resources assessment. It also welcomed the invitation of the Congress to the Organization to inform the international community and the Eleventh World Forestry Congress about actions taken to follow up its recommendations. It noted the interest of certain member countries to assist the Organization in its follow-up actions.

    75. The Conference was informed of the generous offers made in Paris by Chile, Senegal and Turkey to host the Eleventh World Forestry Congress, and welcomed the renewed invitations expressed at the Conference by the delegations of Senegal and Turkey.

    76. The Conference adopted the following Resolution:

    Resolution 1/91



    Considering the importance of the Tenth World Forestry Congress held in Paris, France, in September 1991, on the theme "Forests, a heritage for the future" as a means to renew the commitment of mankind to sustainable management of this vital natural resource,

    Recalling that it had on many occasions in the past drawn attention to the threat posed by the rapid disappearance of forests and that conservation and rational use of forests has become imperative,

    Convinced that the present generation has an obligation to act as a responsible trustee of forests as resources of vital importance for future generations,

    Noting with satisfaction the recognition given by the Congress to FAO's work in the field of forestry:

    1. Fully endorses the conclusion and recommendations of the Congress and the Paris Declaration;

    2. Calls upon Member States, institutions and individuals to heed the solemn appeal of the Tenth World Forestry Congress for actions to green the world through afforestation, reforestation and sustainable management of the multiple functions of trees and forests and to implement programmes in pursuit of Congress recommendations

    3. Appeals to the international community to provide financial and technical assistance to developing countries and to countries with economies in transition in support of the management, conservation and sustainable development of their forests;

    4. Exhorts all countries to promote the sound utilization of forest products and to work toward harmonious development of international trade in these products free from the imposition of unilateral restrictions not in conformity with the GATT;

    5. Requests the organization to undertake the information task it has been invited to do by the Congress and to contribute to the follow-up of the recommendations of the Congress within the means available to it.

    (Adopted 25 November 1991)

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