Table of Contents

  • The ivorld food situation in 1973 is more difficult than at any time since the years immediately following the devastation of the second world war. As a result of droughts and other unfavourable weather conditions, poor harvests were unusually widespread in 1972. Cereal stocks have dropped to the lowest level for 20 years. In the neiv situation of worldwide shortage, changes are occurring with extraordinary rapidity. Prices are rocketing, and the world’s biggest agricultural exporter has had to introduce export allocations for certain products.

  • World agricultural production declined slightly in 1972, probably for the first time since the second world war. Fishery production also fell, by about 1 percent, while forest production increased by some 2 percent. The total output of agricultural, fishery and forest commodities showed a slight decline (Table 1-1). Widespread unfavorable weather particularly drought was the principal factor responsible for the reduction in agricultural output. This drop, together with a world population growth of 2 percent, led to a 3 percent decline in the per caput level of food production. The disappointing performance of agriculture mainly reflected a lower output of cereals from the record level of 1971. An unusual scarcity of wheat coincided with a rice shortage in the Far East. Even so, world cereal production was the second largest ever recorded. By the end of 1972, however, a precarious balance developed between supply and demand, and world prices rose sharply. The 1973/74 season opened with stocks at levels so low that they gave little assurance of adequate supplies to meet world demand if output was below normal in one or two major producing areas. The world food situation is therefore almost entirely dependent on the 1973 harvests.

  • The growth of output recorded in most countries in the region in 1972, together with numerous other recent indicators, confirm that a strong revival of economic activity in the area as a whole is now well under way, helped by expansionary policies. But despite rapid economic growth through 1972, unemployment has remained a problem in a number of countries. Apart from the typical lags between upswings in activity and increases in employment, unemployment figures seem to have been increasingly affected by structural factors. The difficulties of dealing with unemployment have been compounded by the inflationary trends in most western European economies. Present forecasts in this field are extremely uncertain in view of the momentum inflation has acquired and of the recent decisions in the region which aim at a significant slowing down of price increases. Present trends, if left unchecked, could become extremely disquieting.

  • How to provide productive and rewarding employment opportunities for their rapidly growing populations is perhaps the most difficult of all the problems facing the developing countries in the Second United Nations Development Decade. The gravity of employment problems became steadily more apparent during the previous decade of the 1960s, as more and more of those born in the postwar population explosion reached working age. Even those countries that achieved a satisfactory rate of overall economic growth, including a substantial expansion of manufacturing industry, found that employment was not increasing fast enough and unemployment was worsening menacingly. A new emphasis on the social and distributional aspects of development has also led to growing preoccupation with employment problems. The crucial role of agriculture in providing employment opportunities at the present stage of development has been increasingly recognized.