The Economist Group, supported by Corteva, recently released the Global Food Security index, which uses public data to rank countries based upon their food security and infrastructure. For 2019, the United States ranks third on the list, following Singapore and Ireland. The index measures many aspects of food security, but three main areas examined include food affordability, food availability and food quality and safety.
The US ranked sixth in affordability, eighth in availability and fourth in quality and safety. Some of the strengths of the American food system include nutritional standards, access to financing for farmers, food safety, dietary diversity, proportion of population under the global poverty line, sufficiency of supply, protein quality, agricultural import tariffs, volatility of agricultural production and a lack of corruption. The only weakness listed was a lack of public expenditure on agricultural research and development.
Ranked first overall, Singapore was second both in affordability and availability and twenty-fifth in quality and safety. Singapore shares many of the strengths as the United States, with the only differences being a high gross domestic product per capita, a lack of political stability risk and micronutrient availability. There were no weaknesses listed for Singapore.
Ireland, ranked second overall, was third in affordability, eleventh in availability and seventh in quality and safety. Ireland also shared all of the above strengths with the United States and Singapore. The only weakness listed for Ireland, like the US, is the lack of public expenditure on agricultural research and development.
Yemen and Venezuela are among the bottom of the rankings according to the Global Food Security Index. Yemen is positioned 111th overall, ranking 101st in affordability, 113th in availability and 109th in quality and safety. Yemen is considered one of the most serious humanitarian crises of 2019. According to the Global Report on Food Crises released by the Food Security Information Network, of the country’s 29.9 million people, there are roughly two million children five years old or younger who are acutely malnourished. Also, 46.5% of the children in this age range are stunted, while 83.5% of children under five and 69.6% of women aged 15-49 are anemic.
The combination of conflict, macroeconomic issues, climate shocks and crop pests such as armyworms and desert locusts have led to a food and health crisis in the country. Floods beginning in June 2019 and carrying over into the fall damaged many crop and livestock operations. In the fall, armyworms heavily damaged maize crops, and swarms of locusts wiped out numerous crops, livestock pastures and beehives. Yemen’s cereal grain production was forecasted to be down 12% from the previous year. 15.9 million people—53% of the entire population of Yemen—are estimated to be in a state of crisis or worse.
Venezuela is ranked last overall, at 113th. The country ranked 113th in affordability, 111th in availability and 47th in quality and safety. Of the 28.5 million people in Venezuela, 9.3 million (32% of the population) are acutely food insecure and need assistance. 2019 marked the fifth consecutive year of economic recession for Venezuela with the GDP per capita declining by 76% since 2015. Venezuelan purchasing power to buy food declined by more than 8,000% in 2019. Estimates show that in April of 2019, the minimum wage was equivalent to seven US dollars per month. The 2019 maize harvest was projected to be below average due to a reduction in planted area because of high costs and a lack of agricultural inputs. This economic and food crisis has led to the largest mass migration movement in the region. Food shortage, high prices, lack of work and violence have driven nearly 4.8 million people (15% of the population) out of the country.
With the exception of agricultural research and development—which we wholeheartedly support and hope to see much more of in the future—the US rankings on the index provide a valuable measure of progress and should encourage members of the agricultural industry. By assessing our strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of other countries, we can see both our sources of pride and areas in which we have room to grow.