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(Item 9 of the Agenda)

75. The APCAS/98/8 document entitled “Strategic View of Agricultural Statistics for the Next Millennium” was presented by the Director, Estimates Division, National Agricultural Statistics Service, US Department of Agriculture. Document APCAS/98/9 entitled “Issues and Concerns for Developing Countries” was presented to the Commission by the Chief, Statistical Analysis Service, Statistics Division, FAO, Rome. Document APCAS/98/10 on “Future Role for Governments in Providing Agricultural Statistics Services: Issues for Discussion” was presented by the Manager, Land and Water Economics Section, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE).

76. The document APCAS/98/8 stressed that there were fundamental forces sweeping across agriculture that would have significant implications for organizations that produced agricultural statistics. Any one of these trends would be significant and the fact that they were all occurring at the same time was unprecedented. In addition, these trends were occurring at a faster pace than had been experienced in the past. The Commission was informed about these trends along with the resulting implications, and the data requirements they would present.

77. It was emphasized that these changes and their consequences called for strategic planning to be ready to meet the data challenges that would result. It would be important for agricultural statisticians to have a strategy to review statistics programs so that the new data requirements could be met. Future data requirements would require statistical organizations to have more than one statistical systems, one to provide national level forecasts and the other for small area statistics.

78. The Commission was advised that as statistical organizations shaped statistical programs to meet the new data challenges, they would need to search for new solutions to meet the new demands for data and information.

79. It was suggested that the major trends affecting agriculture were being influenced by technology, changing role of governments, changing structure of agriculture, and the globalization of world markets and trade. These trends were creating data needs that went beyond the traditional census and survey methods. Countries should consider a statistical program that satisfy data needs for efficient marketing, public policy, and investment purposes. Data needs for efficient marketing could be met by national level sample surveys. Data needs for public policy and investment could be met using a combination of sample surveys and annual sample censuses. Several approaches were offered to the Commission, with a challenge for the future that national statistical organizations would need to work in cooperation to ensure consistent data were provided.

80. The Commission observed that while the private sector needed statistical information and did collect data, the role of governments to provide unbiased data for all users was necessary. The private sector collected information for its vested interests and not for the benefit of its competitors or society in general.

81. The Commission also suggested that it was proper for government to finance the collection of data used by the private sector. In addition to the needs of the private sector for data in a market economy, there was also a public good component to such data.

82. The Commission further observed that while rapid technological changes were occurring in these areas, in many countries a significant proportion of food production was still produced at the household level.

83. The document APCAS/98/9 focused on the data requirements arising from the evolving approach of agriculture planners over the years to consider issues relating to the welfare of the population dependent on agriculture, food security of the population, depletion of natural resources, and environmental concerns. Moreover the need to examine the impact of agricultural policies on the welfare of the population dependent on agriculture had led to a renewed interest in household surveys collecting agricultural data concurrently with welfare data.

84. The Commission was informed that despite the increased awareness of the importance of statistics for policy and planning for agricultural development, most developing countries still did not have systems of statistics that were adequate to address the above-mentioned issues. The problem was multifaceted in nature and in order to improve the situation it would be important to consider a comprehensive approach that went beyond the traditional focus on agricultural censuses and surveys.

85. The Commission was given an overview of the steps involved in the development of a comprehensive approach that also reflected the socio-economic and environmental concerns associated with agriculture as follows: (i) identifying a core set of data; (ii) critical review of the existing systems of data collection; (iii) processing data within the framework of supply/utilisation accounts and economic accounts; (iv) identifying additional data that may be collected through the existing census/survey programmes; and (v) considering the need for a household survey collecting key agricultural data concurrently with welfare data.

86. The Commission noted that attempts to improve the situation through the comprehensive approach should be supported by adequate financial resources and national capacity building such as provision of appropriate infrastructure and training. In view of this, implementation would have to take into account the country’s specific priorities regarding data needs and the available resources. The Commission noted that the comprehensive approach would build on earlier programmes involving integrated household surveys, such as National Household Survey Capability Program (NHSCP) or the Living Standard Measurement Study but would have the additional feature of a panel survey.

87. The Commission welcomed the intention of FAO to organise in collaboration with SIAP, a seminar/workshop on agriculture-related environmental indicators and accounts for APCAS countries in 1999.

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