Feed back about the 2005 FAO Committee on Commodity Problems - CCP (11-13 April) and other activities

25 avril 2005

The following text is to present a feed-back about the FAO Committee on Commodities Problems (CCP) that was held from the 11th to the 13th of April 2005 in Rome. Some other informations are also presented about other activities : reactions of the CCP on the 2004 SOFA report, Committee on Agriculture (COAG), proposal for a World Conference on Agrarian Reform during the COAG, the next meeting of the Food Security Committee end May 2005.

An interesting agenda for the Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP)
Assessment of decoupled payments in ODCE countries on developing countries
Side event on the impact of OECD agricultural and trade policies on developing countries
Side event about CAP reform, trade and developing countries
CCP Discussion and High Level Round Table on Agricultural Trade Reform and Food Security
International discussions about Food Aid
Report on the Situation of Agriculture in the world
Committee on Agriculture (COAG), SARD side event and World Conference on Agrarian reform in 2006
Committee on World Food Security - CFS (23-26 May)


The CCP was interesting given the interest of its agenda, of the side events that were organized on Tuesday 12 April ("Impact of agriculture policies of ODCE countries on developing countries" and "CAP reform, trade and developing countries") and of the High Level Roundtable on "Agricultural Trade Reform and Food Security » on Wednesday 13 April about « Why trade matters for improving food security ? »
Five IPC members (one by continent) attended, as IPC representatives, with the help of Beatrice Gasco (IPC Liaison Office in Rome), the meetings during the week of 10-17 April 2005.
Some other organizations active in IPC followed the meeting, such as the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP), and some others. The limited number of Southern participants has to be related to the lack of means of the IPC to fund more representatives.
The members that attended as IPC representatives were Rosa Garrido (ANAMURI - Chile) for Latin America, Olaseinde Arigbede (Union of small and medium agricultural farms and Forum for ending the poverty - Nigeria) for Africa, Nurul Anowar (Bangladesh Sramajibi Kendra) for Asia, Ali Darwish (Green Line Association - Lebanon) for the Near East and Daniel Van Der Steen (Collective for Food Strategies -Belgium) for Europe.
Other NGO representatives came only for the second Committee of the week, on Agriculture (COAG), in relation with the SARD Initiative.

An interesting agenda for the Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP)

The agenda of the Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP) was particularly interesting, probably because of the perspective of the proximity of the world discussions on international agriculture trade during the Ministerial WTO (World Trade Organization) meeting in Hong-Kong (December 2005). It is for the same reason that the 2005 edition of the SOFA (situation of agriculture in the world) report focuses on agricultural trade issues.

The CCP discussions focused on the main issues that will be discussed in Hong Kong and on other related issues of great importance for many civil society organizations, such as the national policies of supply management and the regulation of international markets.

As the agenda and the preparatory documents of the CCP showed it, the issues to be discussed were of great importance for civil society organizations.
Reports on the situation of the markets were discussed for the most important commodities in international trade, such as grains, rice, meat, dairy products, bananas, tropical fruits, citrus, tea or fibres.
Major developments and issues of international markets were also discussed (in particular Commodity price instability and long term price reductions), but also issues and actions on national and international commodity market risk management.

In relation with the next WTO Ministerial Conference to be held in Hong-Kong, other central issues were raised :
- food security in the context of economic and trade policy reforms, on the base of countries experiences ;
- the latest developments in agricultural trade negotiations ;
- the work of FAO on agriculture policies and trade (Cosimo Work Programme and Agricultural Policy Indicators) ;
- the impact of agricultural and trade policies from OECD countries on developing countries ;
- food aid in relation with the multilateral agricultural trade negotiations and the Consultative Sub-Committee on Surplus Disposal (CSSD).

All the preparatory documents are available at the FAO website :

For understanding, let us recall that the CSSD was established by the FAO in 1954 to monitor international shipments of surplus agricultural commodities used as food aid in order to minimize the harmful impact of these shipments on commercial trade and agricultural production. Over the years, members of the CSSD have developed a comprehensive set of rules and procedures designed to assist aid-supplying countries to account for and identify the flow of food aid shipments. These rules, endorsed by the major suppliers of commodity assistance, are embodied in the handbook entitled « Principles of Surplus Disposal and Consultative Obligations of Member Nations ».

These important issues were debated, with different points of view. Mainly 2 attitudes emerged.
A- The first was that the FAO had to prepare and to document the discussions on agriculture trade issues in WTO, taking into account its specific knowledge about agriculture, food security and struggle against poverty. In particular the countries fearing negative impact of the agriculture trade reforms in WTO on their national situation were advocating in this direction.

B- The second attitude was to minimize FAO’s role on these issues, and to emphasise the necessity for these decisions to be taken first within the WTO. In particular the countries expecting positive impact of the agriculture trade reforms in WTO were advocating in this direction.

Many civil society organizations ask the FAO (and other specialized organizations such as WFP in food aid) to play a greater role in preparing and documenting the discussions on agriculture and trade issues in WTO. As they advocate, the WTO knows about trade, but not about systems of agriculture, food security, rural development, poverty reduction, environment impact and other « non trade concerns ».

Another debate was about the causes of the negative price situation. Many delegates believe that the origin of agricultural price instability and decrease are caused by support policies (domestic support, export support and import barriers) and technological improvements. On the contrary, others see the situation as resulting from the destruction of national and international agricultural markets regulation systems. Of course, this last perception is against the free trade ideology, but receive this last time more and more support.
See for instance the Call from Chapecó, the Dakar Declaration and the proposals for a new US policy by Tennessee University on the following websites :
http://dakardeclaration.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=39 (English, French, Spanish)
http://agpolicy.org/blueprint/RUAP_version_Fr.pdf (French)

Assessment of decoupled payments in ODCE countries on developing countries

An interesting discussing was held about the assessments study of decoupled payments in ODCE countries on developing countries (document CCP 05/Inf.7-Rev. 1).
The study shows that partially decoupled payments have a limited impact on prices (0,5% maximum).The impact is generally stronger on production and exportation, but it depends largely from the products : small for milk, pork and rice, stronger for coarse grain (maximum 15,8%), wheat (maximum 6%) and beef (maximum 8,4%). These levels remains small if we compare with the impact of coupled payments.
The reaction to the report was to say that the assessment remains limited and that it should be improved by taking into account empiric documentation on general policy measures and on diverse services brought by the agricultural sector apart from the production in a strict sense.
It was also asked to estimate the custom receipts benefiting to developed countries from their imports from developing countries.
FAO achieves some of its assessment work in collaboration with other international organizations, such as OECD and World Bank. Collaboration is certainly useful since the results of the assessments done by different organizations are sometimes highly contradictory.

Side event on the impact of OECD agricultural and trade policies on developing countries

These contradictions were clearly visible during the Side event on the Impact of OECD agricultural and trade policies on developing countries, organized on Tuesday 12 April. This was the opportunity for World Bank, OECD and FAO to present and compare their working methodologies and their results.
One of the important remarks during the side event was that the assessment work did not focus on non trade concerns, such as food security, social and environmental impact, rural development, employment and evolution of production systems. For instance, no information was collected about the disappearance of small farmers to the benefit of big farmers and agribusiness.

Side event about CAP reform, trade and developing countries

Another Side event was organized on Tuesday 12 April about CAP reform, trade and developing countries. It was a presentation by Mr Tassos Haniotos (DG Agriculture) about the importance and the signification of the CAP reform in relation with the WTO rules. It gives an opportunity for better understanding of CAP principles an its evolution (towards decoupled payments and support to rural development) to non European delegates.

An important question was not raised. Direct payments were already allowed by the AOA of the GATT in the past (blue box) and decoupled payments will probably be permitted in the future. But there was no discussion about the capacity of this kind of policy tools to improve the global situation on the agriculture markets. Even if these kind of support measures have limited impact on prices, production and exports, they do not contribute to improve world markets (stabilization and positive evolution of prices). At the other hand, some other kinds of policy tools that could really contribute to improve markets, such as international commodity agreements at international level and supply management at the national level, were not presented.
At the other hand, some other kinds of policy tools that could really contribute to improve markets were not presented, such as international commodity agreements at international level and supply management at the national level.

CCP Discussion and High Level Round Table on Agricultural Trade Reform and Food Security

The issue was discussed during the CCP on Monday 11 April, on the base of the background document CCP 05/11 and CCP 05/CRS 2, but a whole day high level round table could deepen the discussion on Wednesday 13.
The document CCP 05/11 is particularly interesting, presenting a summary the results, conclusions and lessons to be learnt from the analysis of the reform of economic and trade policies in relation with the food situation in 15 countries during the last 20 years. See :

The Round Table, called « Why trade matters for improving food security ? », benefitted from a good attendance and from the presence of the WTO director general Dr Supachai Panishpakdi, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development from Nigeria, Mr Malla Adamu Bello and the FAO Director General, Mr Jacques Diouf.

During the debates in the CCP, the attention was drawn to many factors impacting the results, such as :
- Institutional and infrastructural context ;
- Coherence of the whole process ;
- Importance of agricultural prices for the production ;
- Availability of rural credit ;
- Capacity of the private sector to replace the lacking governmental services ;
- The focus of policies on the low income populations in rural areas ;
- The increase of productivity ;
- The creation, in rural areas, of employment in the food processing sector.

With respect to the WTO discussions on agriculture, some governments said that the reduction of the domestic support to agriculture in developed countries was not a panacea for the development of countries largely depending on agriculture and that it remains necessary to achieve greater liberalisation in the developing countries.
Some other important points were a better participation of developing countries to the discussions and the need to increase the competitiveness of high value products in developing countries, facing actually the problems of progressive tariffs and of non trade barriers.
The delegates asked also to continue the analysis with more study cases.

During the CCP and especially during the High level round table of Wednesday, it was interesting to hear some voices opposing this position largely in accordance with the liberalisation dogma.
Some delegates advocated for policies in order to improve the situation of agricultural world markets, with tools such as international commodity agreements at international level and supply management at the national level.

From the European Union, we noted especially the interventions from Luxembourg and from France.
In a long intervention, the delegate of Luxembourg presented the conclusions of an European Seminar that was held in Luxembourg in the framework of the European Presidency. The text is available on the Luxembourg Presidency website :

Some developing countries emphasised also that there is a need to improve the situation of their national markets and of international markets, with tools making it possible to stabilize and improve the long term evolution of prices, or at least to have more effective tools to protect the local markets, so important to achieve their food security and to improve their socio-economic situation.

International discussions about Food Aid

A discussion took place in preparation of the inclusion of rules for food aid in the WTO agriculture agreements, as a part of the Doha development round.
Preparatory documents were the following :

The importance of food aid in emergency situations was stressed generally.
Nevertheless, some delegates expressed some concerns :
- To avoid food aid when possible in order not to create a dependency of benefiting countries towards foreign aid ;
- Food aid should not be seen as a mean to solve long term development needs ;
-To avoid negative impact on local markets, on national producers and on trade distribution channels.
Many delegates insisted on focusing food aid on demand and not on supply, and give the preference to food aid in the form of non tied gifts. They expressed their concern about conditioned food aid.

After these very general criticisms, well known in the NGO world, the discussion went about the role of FAO in the WTO discussions on food aid. The delegates decided that the FAO should only send a sign to WTO in order to inform about the role played by the Sub Committee on surplus disposal in the control of international flows of food aid, specifying also that it could be put at the service of WTO on demand.

Like for many other agriculture related matters, many civil society organizations believe that FAO does not play fully its role in accordance with its mandate and competence.
Indeed, the FAO has a competence and a mandate on many matters : sustainability in agriculture, food security, evolution of agriculture systems in relation with social and environmental concerns, rural development, food aid (in relation with other UN organizations like the WFP), etc.
Whereas the WTO does not have such competences on these issues. Its mandate is on international trade only.
Hence, the FAO should not only play a role of implementation of WTO decisions, but should be involved in the preparation of the decisions that will be taken by the WTO when these matters are concerned or impacted.
In the actual situation, it is clear that leading governments give priority to trade and not to issues such as national socio-economic development, rural development, food security, environment and others.

Report on the Situation of Agriculture in the world

During the debates, some interventions were made about the SOFA (Situation of Agriculture) Report. The edition of 2005 is focused on trade matters and the 2004 was focused on biotechnologies in agriculture. This last report caused a great emotion, since it was seen by civil society organizations as giving a strong support to biotechnologies development in agriculture. More than thousand signatures (from which 650 were from Civil Society Organizations of 80 countries) were collected in a few weeks after the report publication to support an open letter, prepared under the IPC responsibility and addressed to Mr. Jacques Diouf, Director General of FAO, under the title "FAO Declares War on Farmers not on Hunger".
See :
During the CCP, some delegates asked the FAO to better consider the impact of its publications, taking into account world events and Members needs.
The open letter had also a strong impact inside of the FAO, where a part of the staff agreed with the views expressed in the open letter.

Committee on Agriculture (COAG), SARD side event and World Conference on Agrarian reform in 2006

The Committee on Agriculture (COAG), held from 13 to 15 April, benefited from a good participation of civil society.

An interesting Side event was organized on the 14 April on « Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) and civil society », with a strong participation. The panel was composed of Mrs Corazon « Dinky » Juliano Soliman (Secretary of Social Protection Department - Philippines), Mr Roland Butch (World Neighbors - USA), Mr Hasan Bolkan (Campbell Vetgetable R & D) and Olaseinde Arigbede (National Coordinator of the Union of small and medium agricultural farms - Nigeria, also representing the IPC).
The debate was particularly interesting ; there was a concern on the link between CCP and COAG : is it possible to improve Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in the current world situation were national and world prices are instable and decreasing in the long term. Is there a future for SARD if the price conditions do not allow the production costs to be covered ?

During the COAG, that followed the CCP, Mr Miguel Rossetto, the Brazilian Minister for Agrarian Development, made a proposal that was largely accepted, even if some delegates said funding has to be found. The idea was that FAO organizes in 2006 a World Conference on Agrarian Reform, in the framework of sustainable rural development and poverty reduction, in order to improve the access of the poor to land resources and to support services to agriculture.

Committee on World Food Security - CFS (23-26 May)

Let us recall that the next CFS will be particularly important because it will decide on the Brazilian proposal done in 2004 for a new format for the "World Food Summit Ten Years Later" giving more importance to civil society representatives than in usual CFS sessions.
All preparatory documents are available on the following website :

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