Meaning of YEAR IN REVIEW 1999: AGRICULTURE in English


FISHERIES The total world catch of fish in 1996, the latest year for which figures were available, increased significantly over that of 1995. The record total of 121 million metric tons represented a gain of 3.7 million metric tons over 1995. (See Table.) China continued to be the leading producing nation, registering an increase of 7.5 million metric tons during 1996 for a total of 31,936,876 metric tons. The positions of the top 10 producing nations remained the same, with significant increases shown by Peru (up 578,752 metric tons over 1995), Iceland (up 447,821 metric tons), India (up 356,761 metric tons), Russia (up 354,803 metric tons), and Indonesia (up 283,940 metric tons). Nations registering decreases were Chile (down 680,391 metric tons), Denmark (down 318,188 metric tons), and the U.S. (down 240,289 metric tons). (For details on Fishery Production and Trade by Principal Producers in 1996, see Table.) Some interesting changes occurred among the top 20 species landed during 1996. Anchoveta remained in the top spot, increasing slightly from 8,664,576 metric tons in 1995 to 8,863,714 in 1996. Alaska pollock moved up to second place, even though it decreased from 4,687,718 metric tons in 1995 to 4,378,843 in 1996. A larger decrease, however, was registered by third-place Chilean jack mackerel, from 4,955,186 metric tons in 1995 to 4,378,843 in 1996. The largest difference registered was that for Pacific cupped oysters, which rose from 17th place in 1995 with 1,020,969 metric tons to fourth place in 1996 with 2,948,605. The reason for this huge disparity was not a sudden massive increase in the number of oysters caught but instead was the result of a change in the way that China reported its production figures in order to conform with the standard reporting procedures of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). China had been reporting production statistics for the blood cockle, Japanese carpet shell, and Pacific cupped oyster to the FAO as shelled or shucked weight. This method significantly understated its production of those species because the standard practice with the FAO and other international fishery organizations was to report aquatic production as "nominal catch," the liveweight equivalent. A major increase in the catch of capelin, mostly from waters surrounding Iceland, resulted in a move from 20th place with 748,796 metric tons in 1995 up to 11th with 1,527,065. Production of chub mackerel also increased significantly, rising from 1,556,888 metric tons in 1995 to 2,167,881 in 1996. The rises in production during the last few years were accounted for almost entirely by increases in output from aquaculture. (See Special Report.) The level of catch reported by the world's fishing fleets leveled off at about 85 million-87 million metric tons. Despite the increases in production, the fishing industry was described during the year as "economically inefficient." The director of the FAO Fishery Resources Division commented in May 1998, "Although the problems of fishery management are now widely recognized and new international instruments such as the UN Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks and the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries were adopted in 1995, fisheries management has generally failed to protect resources from being overexploited and fisheries from being economically inefficient." The main reasons for this failure, according to the FAO, were the "lack of political will to make difficult adjustments, particularly regarding the access to fishery resources and fishing rights," and the "success of industry lobbies in resisting changes" that would address the problems. Also mentioned was the persistence of direct and indirect subsidies and the lack of control of their fleets by flag states. Warnings were voiced that without "urgent intervention" to control or reduce fishing, the estimated 60-70% of global stocks that were currently fully exploited or overfished would continue to decline. Although many of the world's fishery resources were heavily exploited, there did appear to be some limited scope for development. The FAO estimated that better management of marine fisheries would result in a catch totaling 93 million metric tons, a gain of 6 million-8 million metric tons over the present. Better management should include practices that reduce unwanted by-catch, as each year commercial fisheries discard about 20 million metric tons of fish. The FAO concluded that a reduction of at least 30% of world fishing capacity would be required to allow the rebuilding of overfished resources. That message was taken up by the international environmental protection organization Greenpeace, which recommended a 50% reduction in the world's fishing fleets. In response, many countries began instituting controls on their fleets, although not as rapidly and extensively as Greenpeace wished. In the European Union the fisheries ministers agreed to cut the EU fishing fleet by up to 30% over five years as part of a fleet restructuring scheme. MARTIN GILL FOOD PROCESSING Home meal replacements became a major trend in 1998, particularly in the U.S., and the popularity of ready-to-eat, carryout meals increased. Convenience was the main spur to product and package innovation. Package design focused on ease of opening and environmental benefits. The increase in vegetarianism prompted new products and market strategies in this field. Although consumers paid lip service to the importance of healthful eating, dieting for health reasons declined while demand increased for products containing natural and organically grown ingredients. Functional foods with claimed specific health benefits, once perceived as a fad confined to Japan, became increasingly important in many other countries. Consumer resistance to genetic modification (GM) of food animals and plants grew markedly during the year. Consumers in Ireland were given official advice on whether GM resulted in foods that were safe to eat. Concerned that consumers were unaware of the growing use of GM in food and the constituents produced by GM and by the lack of legislation in this field, European trade bodies urged their members to label products that contained such constituents. It was estimated that in the U.S. alone approximately 30 million people were affected by food poisoning, of whom some 9,000 died. Catering services accounted for about one-third of fatalities, and processing was thought to be responsible for the remainder. Fears over E. coli bacteria spurred the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to order warning labels on containers of unpasteurized fruit juice. Sweden expressed concern that salmonella had been detected in food imported from other European Union countries under EU free trade rules. In the U.K. new cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as "mad cow" disease, fell dramatically, but the British National Audit Office said that by the year 2000 the BSE crisis will have cost the country about $6 billion, making it Britain's most expensive peacetime catastrophe. Agriculture and Food Supplies INTERNATIONAL ISSUES World agricultural markets in 1998 were dominated by two events, the economic turbulence in Asia and the El Nio weather phenomenon. Asian problems lowered the value of world agricultural trade and raised concerns about the health of the global economy. The El Nio event, during which the waters in the Pacific Ocean off South America warm and alter global weather patterns, caused drought in some regions and floods in others but did not reduce total global food supplies compared with 1997. The combined effects of these forces, however, resulted in a difficult year for farmers in many parts of the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), world agricultural production rose 0.2% in 1998. (See Table I.) Even with the small increase, agricultural production reached a record level. For 1998 the growth in food production in the less-developed countries kept pace with the rise in population so that per capita food production was slightly higher. Developed countries experienced a decline in per capita production, which either reduced their surplus for export or increased their import needs. Although at a global level food production rose, there were many differences by region, which reflected economic and weather problems. Among the developed countries, output in the United States and Canada increased 0.1% and 1.5%, respectively, while the European Union (EU) recorded another strong performance. Agricultural production in Russia had fallen during most of the 1990s, and there were production problems again in 1998. Reduced output was linked to the ongoing problems of the transition from central planning to a market economy. The agricultural sector experienced problems with obtaining adequate supplies of inputs, such as fertilizers and chemicals, as well as with tardy payments for products delivered and delayed wages. South Africa suffered greatly from El Nio, with 1997-98 corn production sharply lower. Although Australia suffered a reduced wheat crop due to El Nio, rain arrived at a critical time in the fall of 1997 and prevented a large crop loss. For the less-developed countries location was critical to agricultural performance in 1998. Argentina and Brazil produced above-normal soybean crops owing to timely rains associated with El Nio. Other less-developed countries were not so fortunate. Indonesian agricultural production suffered from an El Nio-induced drought and the region's economic collapse. China also experienced some dryness induced by El Nio, which adversely affected its 1997-98 coarse grain crops. By contrast, Mexico received excessive rains, which reduced its coarse grain output. Thailand and the Philippines were affected by both El Nio and economic problems, but Thailand was able to expand its rice output. Production problems in Central Africa were partly the fault of El Nio and partly man-made, as warfare erupted in the region. Food Emergencies. A number of food emergencies occurred in 1998. The Sudan experienced one of its periodic droughts. Efforts to organize relief supplies were hampered because Sudanese government troops were fighting with rebel forces in the drought-stricken areas and regarded food aid as assistance to the rebels. North Korea experienced famine, as it had in 1997. During the spring of 1998 food supplies there shrank to very low levels, and millions, especially children and the elderly, were at risk. Large quantities of grain were delivered to that country during the spring, and, although the situation eased in the summer, the 1998 harvests were again poor. Drought in Indonesia and falling incomes due to the economic crisis produced a food emergency in that nation, but the international community provided billions of dollars in credits, allowing the purchase of large volumes of wheat and rice. In the fall of 1998 concern over food shortages in Russia emerged. Due to drought in the Volga river area and continued economic chaos, Russian grain production was at its lowest level since the early 1950s. With its political and economic problems Russia did not have the money to purchase food on world markets and was offered food assistance. Some food emergencies were man-made. Ethnic warfare in Central and East Africa resulted in mass movements of people who did not have adequate food. Fighting in the Serbian province of Kosovo between Yugoslav forces and ethnic Albanians in the fall of 1998 drove the Albanians away from their villages and fields just before winter. An accord between the Yugoslav government and NATO provided humanitarian relief. Iraq continued to suffer food shortages as a result of the trade sanctions imposed by the UN. The trend of decreasing food aid continued during the year. (See Table II.) In the early 1990s cereal food aid averaged more than 12 million tons. In 1996-97 the total dropped sharply to just over five million tons, and it remained at that level in 1997-98. A decline in cereal food aid was characteristic of most donor nations, but the major donors registered the largest declines. The U.S., the largest donor, had reduced cereal food aid by nearly five million tons, or 70%, since 1992-95. The second largest donor, the EU, had lowered its aid by three million tons, or 77%. These declines reflected changes in world grain markets, as government-owned surplus stocks were reduced by policy shifts as well as by the tight global supplies of the mid-1990s. For example, in accord with a decision taken in 1996, the U.S. government no longer held large grain stocks accumulated under farm price support programs. In the past such stocks were often used for food aid. The trend of reduced cereal food aid was a concern to many food experts. Tighter world food supplies could be expected as production resources were being used to the maximum. There would be little to no growth in supply at a time when income and population growth would be boosting demand.

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