Table of Contents

  • The world food crisis of 1972-74, which led to the convening of the World Food Conference in November 1974 ard the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Hunger and Malnutrition, focussed the debate on international food policy on two main issues. First, how in the short term could the basic and immediate food needs of the Least Developed and the Most Seriously Affected (MSA) Developing Countries be met by the international community? Secondly, what measures should the international community take in the longer-term to increase food production and improve its consumption and distribution in developing countries?

  • This paper is concerned with progress in the adoption and implementation of international policies to assist in the solution of the world food problem. The world food problem has many dimensions, most inter-related, and these were articulated clearly in the documentation prepared for and the debate at the World Food Conference held in November, 1974. The World Food Conference was called in response to the acute food crises which developed in 1972-73 due to the failure of grain crops in many countries and the progressive run-down during the sixties of world grain stocks and was, therefore, primarily a response to a crisis situation.

  • The improvement in the world food supply position which began in 1975 continued in 1976, mainly as the result of a substantial increase in world cereal production and stocks. A major factor in 1976 was favourable weather in nearly all the major cereal producing areas of the world, so that a record world wheat crop of 418 million tonnes was harvested, while coarse grain output rose to a new peak of 704 million tonnes. In addition world rice output was comparatively heavy.

  • Any review of international food policy at the present must start with the comprehensive programme of action proposed at the World Food Conference, and must analyse subsequent developments in institutions,activities, and policies. The major aims of the Food Conference included the formulation of programmes to increase food production in developing countries, to improve the distribution and consumption of food, to strengthen world food security and to bring about a more orderly system of agricultural trade and adjustment. In all the Conference adopted no less than 22 resolutions, intended to cover all aspects of the world food problem.

  • The good grain harvests of 1976 together with the favourable results in many countries for 1977 cereal harvests mean that for the next season or so the world probably has the assurance of adequate cereal supplies owing to the large carry-over stocks from 1976 harvests and the even larger carry-over stocks, particularly of coarse grains, obtained from 1977 harvests. Nevertheless, 1977 wheat output in some developing countries in Latin America and Africa was reduced below the previous year's levels. Furthermore, although wheat and coarse grain prices fell sharply during the 1976-77 crop year, thereby reducing the cost of imported grains for developing countries, the decline in prices, although followed by a recovery in 1977-78, had serious implications for world grain production and supplies in the longer-term since it pointed sooner or later to the probability of a fairly sharp reduction in cereal plantings by the major exporting countries.

  • The Food and Agriculture Act of 1977 re-established set-aside programmes for wheat and coarse grains in order to regulate production; it also provided for new target and loan rates to be set. An equally important provision, however, was the intention to establish a substantial wheat and feed grain reserve prior to the beginning of the 1978-79 marketing year.

  • The fall in fertilizer prices at the beginning of 1975 stimulated fertilizer consumption. As a consequence world consumption, which had fallen in 1974-75 by 3.2 per cent, recovered in 1975-76 by 9.6 per cent to a fresh record level of 88.7 million tonnes. This was about 6 per cent above the previous peak of 1973-74.

  • The Report of the Fourth Session of the World Food Council, held in Mexico City in June 1978, became available just as this paper was going to print. The Mexico Declaration of the Council reviewed developments in the world food situation, in particular the implementation of the Manila Communique issued after its Third Session in 1977. As was to be expected, the Mexico Declaration covered rather familiar ground,and the achievements of the World Food Council in the preceding year to which it was able to point were rather limited, the most significant perhaps being the operational establishment of the International Fund for Agricultural Development in 1978, and the Council's stimulation of considerable additional contributions to the International Emergency Reserve.