The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Food Security Index (GFSI), sponsored by DuPont, is an annual benchmarking index that provides a common framework for understanding the root causes of global food insecurity by examining the dynamics of food systems around the world. This framework creates a unique country-level food security measurement tool that addresses the issues of affordability, availability, quality & safety in 113 countries. This year also marks the inception of the index’s Natural Resources & Resilience adjustment factor, which demonstrates the impact of climate-related and natural resource risks on overall food security.
For the first time in five years, the index has recorded a drop in global food security after four years of progressive gains. This downturn reflects the impact of decreasing public sector investments, worsening global political instability, increased human migration and the escalation of climate change consequences on both poor and rich states alike.
South Africa Steps Up
South Africa is one of the few countries that achieved positive traction in the past year. Despite weathering the worst drought in two decades, South Africa’s agriculture sector has risen to the challenge by bolstering food resources and safety net programs.
Overall South Africa placed 1st in Africa and 44th globally. In terms of its overall GFSI score, when adjusted by the Natural Resources & Resilience, it placed 46th out of 113 counties.
South Africa received strong scores in five indicators, achieving the maximum of 100 points for the country’s nutritional standards (which includes national nutrition plans, dietary guidelines and nutritional monitoring) and the presence of food ‘safety net’ programs (public initiatives that protect the poor from food-related shocks). However, a key challenge still remains its stagnating GDP growth rate, which has only recently started to show some signs of recovery.
“South Africa has demonstrated the important strides that can be achieved when food security is made a priority by government. With worsening political instability, rising migration and declining public-sector investment evident across the globe. The world will be looking to South Africa to lead the discourse on how we can effectivity tackle the crippling issue of food insecurity in Africa,” said Prabdeep Bajwa, DuPont Regional Director – Africa.
Regional Perspective – Middle East & Africa
At a global and regional level, the Middle East & Africa has suffered the greatest losses. Drought has wreaked havoc across most of in Sub-Saharan Africa, putting strain on food safety nets and international food aid programs. Sub-Saharan countries, which are the most food insecure countries globally, have been hit by the impacts of extreme weather which has increased populations’ dependency on already overburdened multilateral and NGO-run food safety net programs.
Across East Africa, a region which typically receives rainfall twice a year, climate change related impacts have left countries reeling from the worst drought in a century. Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda, which boast rich agricultural lands are worst affected. This has caused food prices to skyrocket to record levels, doubling the price of staple cereals in some areas, and exacerbating the acute food insecurity.
“Governments, civil society and the private sector must work together and invest in disaster risk reduction strategies. This is important to run in parallel with longer-term structural and productivity enhancement programs that ensure that future food supplies are sufficient to meet the needs of Africa’s growing population,” concludes Bajwa.
Improving food security measures key for MENA region
The latest results from the GFSI have revealed that countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region need to step up their efforts to improve food security measures to ensure high living standards and sustainable growth. Among Arab countries, a total of nine have improved positively over the last five years. Kuwait led the GCC and MENA at second place followed by Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain, respectively.
Amr El Moniem, UAE Country Manager, DuPont, said: “Overall, GCC countries continue to uphold their commitment to their food security goals and have maintained advantageous positions particularly in ensuring affordability. Globally, these countries also continue to exert efforts to keep up with their ranks at par with leading European nations, which have exacting standards in ensuring food security based on GFSI. However, it is important to further excel and improve performance to hedge against external forces that may affect their ranking.”
Major improvements are required for some countries – including those that are at high risk in MENA as agricultural production in the region is vulnerable to several factors such as depleting freshwater sources, soil erosion, and extreme weather changes. This could prompt countries to increase their dependence on food imports.
“Environmental factors are the key challenges in the years ahead and MENA countries should tackle these realities, like all regions facing issues posed by extreme weather conditions such as drought, storms and rising sea levels,” said Amr El Moniem. “Around 90 per cent of inhabitants will live in growing cities across the region, particularly in the GCC. Thus, smart management of energy, water and food resources are crucial to ensuring high living standards and sustainable growth.”
Turkey’s strongest rank was in Quality & Safety
According to the GFSI, Turkey scored highest in ‘quality and safety’, followed by ‘availability’ and ‘affordability’ categories. As was the case last year, Turkey was the strongest in the following categories: nutritional standards, improvements in the proportion of the population under the global poverty line, presence of food safety-net programs and access financing for farmers. The country ranked high on the proportion of population under the global poverty line, presence of food safety-net programs and access to financing for farmers within the affordability category.
Under the new Natural Resources & Resilience category, Turkey ranked 38 among 113 countries assessed in this category for the first time.
“At DuPont, we witness the increasing work in food security as well as a steady progress in quality/safety areas in Turkey,”said Halide Aydınlık, Country Leader, DuPont Turkey. “What is more, we believe that we will rank higher in the coming years due to the field work including the presence of food safety-net programs and access to financing for farmers.”
Learn more about the rankings of countries and regions in the GFSI at foodsecurityindex.eiu.com.