Measuring the State of Food Security in Latin America

The 2016 findings of the DuPont-sponsored Global Food Security Index (GFSI) were released June 9 by The Economist Intelligence Unit. The GFSI creates a framework for benchmarking a nation’s food security utilizing the core drivers of food affordability, availability, and quality and safety. This is the first in a series of reports that offer a snapshot of food security in a selection of the 113 counties examined by the GFSI, beginning with five Latin American nations.

Latin America is regarded by many in food security circles as the “next global breadbasket,” largely because of its abundant water and land resources. According to the World Bank, Latin America is home to about 28 percent of potential new arable land, and, despite droughts and water scarcity in some sub-regions, it also holds the highest share of renewable water resources. A look at some of the factors affecting food security in five Latin American countries profiled in the GFSI illustrates both the opportunities and challenges for nations in this part of the world as they seek to expand agriculture production for regional consumption as well as global export.

GFSI 2016 table_latinamerica


Food Affordability
The GFSI looks at affordability through two lenses: First, whether people in a country have sufficient means to buy food; and, second, the quality of the public structures that exist to respond to food shocks. The GFSI shows that global food affordability peaked in 2015. In 2016, it improves only in Central and South America (+.03). The countries profiled all rank high in the proportion of their people above the global poverty line.

  • Chile alone scores well on having low agricultural import tariffs (+91.8); higher tariff rates can affect food security by raising the price of both domestic and imported food.
  • Brazil ranks high on the presence of food safety programs (+100).
  • Colombia does well on food consumption as a share of household expenditure (+82.5).


chile_weblargFood Availability
This category examines a country’s capacity to produce and distribute food, and explores bottlenecks or risks to food availability.

  • Chile, Mexico and Argentina rank +100.0 on the presence of food safety net programs.
  • Brazil and Chile score +100.0 for access to financing for farmers. This is a +25.0 improvement for Chile over 2015, suggesting that it has broadened finance programs for its farmers. This indicator has improved for only two other countries in the GFSI: Belarus and Ecuador.
  • Mexico does well on the volatility of agriculture indicator (+92.4), which measures large swings in agricultural output. Mexico outranks both the United States and Canada in this indicator.


Food Quality and Safety
This category explores the overall quality of food supplies based on the understanding that food security requires people have access to nutritious food that meets dietary needs. The countries profiled rank high on nutrition standards – a composite of national nutritional plans, dietary guidelines and nutritional monitoring – and food safety programs.

  • Colombia scores well (+80.4) in diet diversification.
  • Brazil’s score on food loss, +79.4, represents a + 21.9 change, suggesting the intensification of agriculture production and more efficient farming practices being put into place.



Similar to most other nations around the world, the Latin American countries fall short in investment in agriculture R&D. The EIU points out that funding agriculture research in developing countries by the public sector and donor agencies has fallen since 1980 and needs to be reversed.

  • Colombia has a 0.0 score for public expenditure on agriculture R&D.


Another area cited for improvement across the countries in this region is the need to promote micronutrient availability, consisting of animal iron, vitamin A and vegetal iron.

  • Mexico has the highest score for this indicator among the countries, +63.4, while Brazil and Colombia scores are +36.9 and +31.7. One way countries where vegetal iron is low may improve their scores is to promote the consumption of a more nutritious diet with a focus on leafy green vegetables.


Other indicators of food security challenges among these countries include insufficiency of supply, diet diversification, agriculture infrastructure, political stability and corruption.

  • Both Colombia and Argentina have scores of +50.0 under the corruption indicator, representing a +25.0 improvement over last year.


To learn more information about the countries 113 profiled by the GFSI, visit and download the free GFSI 2016 model excel file.  This tool allows exploration of food security within a country and also allows for comparisons across countries.

This entry was posted on Agriculture, Food Safety, Food Security, Nutrition & Health, Argentina, Brazil, chile, Colombia, GFSI, Global Food Security Index, Latin America, North America, South America, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico,

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