The US, Denmark, France and the Netherlands are the most food-secure countries in the world, according to research institute the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Food Security Index (GFSI) released earlier this month.
The index, developed by the EIU and sponsored by DuPont, deepens the dialogue on food security by examining the core issues of food affordability, availability and quality for 105 developed and developing countries worldwide.
“The rapid rise of emerging markets has increased demand for food of all kinds, but investment and the production of supplies have not always been able to keep up,” says EIU director of global forecasting Leo Abruzzese.
A combination of population pressures, high-input prices, changing consumer patterns, and dramatic weather and price shocks are placing severe and increasing strains on food systems. The index examines these underlying factors using qualitative and quantitative indicators to provide a standard against which countries can be measured.
“Filling the gaps in national food secu- rity networks requires a more careful understanding of each country’s weak- nesses and how these are to be addressed,” he adds.
A further finding is that the food supply in advanced countries averages 1 200 calories more per person a day than that of low-income economies, with the average person requiring 2 300 calories a day to live a healthy, active life.
In wealthy nations, there is enough food for each person to consume 1 100 calories above this benchmark, while in low-income States, national food supplies are, on average, 100 calories short of this.
In the sub-Saharan Africa region, several countries are placed in the bottom third of the index in terms of food security, including Mozambique, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Niger, but should be among the world’s faster-growing economies during the next two years, which may enable these States to address food security issues more intensely.
Moreover, the index reflects that several policy and nutrition-related indicators, including access to farmer financing, the presence of food safety-net programmes, protein quality and diet diversification, are highly correlated with overall food security.
As a result, governments may be better able to influence improvements in these areas more intensely than structural indicators, such as per capita income, which illustrates the importance of policy in ensuring food security.
Of all the countries investigated, China experienced the least volatility in agricultural production during the last 20 years, with three North African States – Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria – among those that experienced the most volatility.
Countries with wide fluctuations in annual farm output were considered less food secure and scored lower on the index.
Interestingly, the most food-secure nations demonstrate a low availability of micronutrients, with Japan and France being the only countries ranked in the top ten which demonstrate good micronutrient availability.
This measurement is significant, as it reflects the quality of food consumed, with low scores of nutrient consumption often linked to health issues such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Many advanced economies showed weak nutrition scores. Germany, for example, ranks forty-third for micronutrients avail- ability, with the low rankings primarily due to the limited availability of vegetal iron in national food supplies.
South Africa was ranked the fortieth most food-secure nation out of the 105 countries.
The GFSI is available free of charge on the EIU website at: http://www.eiu.com/FoodSecurityIndex.