The World’s top food secure nations. How does Australia sit?

Can you guess the world’s top food secure nations? Number 14 may surprise you!

Global trends in food security aren’t all that favourable at the moment. Global food security has now declined for the first time in four years. Some recent estimates by the UN say that this increase has been by about 38 million people in 2016.  Recent weather disasters, increasing numbers of refugees, greater household expenditure on food, and declining political stability around the globe are said to be the cause.  

But there is still some good news to go around!

With much focus on food security at the lower ends of the spectrum, it’s important to cast some light on food security trends in all countries across the globe.  On Tuesday, the Economist Intelligence Unit released the sixth annual Global Food Security Index, with some interesting results!

Ireland is now the world’s most food-secure nation. Ireland came in at first place, with an overall food security score of 85.6.  In the 1840s, the Irish famine caused the migration of half a million people to the United States, but it looks the times have changed.

The top 15 scoring nations were: 

  1. Ireland (79.9)
  2. Austria (77.6)
  3. France (77.5)
  4. United States (77.4)
  5. Germany (77.3)
  6. Switzerland (77.3)
  7. United Kingdom (77.3)
  8. Canada (76.9)
  9. Denmark (76.7)
  10. Sweden (76.6)
  11. Netherlands (76.3)
  12. New Zealand (75.4)
  13. Finland (75.2)
  14. Australia (75.0)
  15. Norway (74.6)

At the other end, the poorest scoring nations were the Democratic Republic of the Congo (22.1), Burundi (25.1), Madagascar (27.2), Yemen (28.8) and Chad (28.3).

So how can we explain these results? 

First,  let’s take a look at how food security is measured. The Global Food Security Index is comprised of five categories: Affordability, availability, quality and safety, as well as the new category to be added this year of natural resources and resilience.

The index places a high value on public investment in agricultural research, as this is a large determining factor on the availability and expense of food. Globally, there are decreases in the amount of investment in agricultural research and development. In Ireland, however, investment in agriculture is a government priority. In the past 5 years, Ireland has spent more than the US on public research in agricultural development, and the agricultural sector has grown significantly in proportion to the national economy.  

Climatic conditions are also incredibly important to the index. Austria – a country with a relatively stable climate and low soil erosion – performed strongly in the newly added fourth component of Natural Resources and Resilience. Singapore, on the other hand, performed far less favourably – with concerns about rising sea levels, vulnerability to extreme weather, and small land size creating a reliance on imports for food. As a result, Singapore fell the most in the rankings compared to previous years (by 15 positions), due to the addition of this new category. The US also fell in the rankings – despite a highly productive food system, there are concerns that water inefficiency and risk of drought threaten previous estimates of food security. Australia fell by nine places, owing to high sensitivity to freshwater shocks and soil erosion. 

Water security is also incredibly important in these figures. Given agriculture accounts for 70% of water withdrawals worldwide, the ability for nations to meet food requirements in an efficient and sustainable way is vital for food security. Sub-Saharan Africa performed the best in this category. Uganda, with 84% of people relying on subsistence farming, topped the ladder for water efficient production. This outcome is partly due to poorer investments and utilisation of technologies (including irrigation) to intensify production. Denmark came in at second place in the water category. Smart technologies and strict regulations have resulted in only 7.8% of water being lost before it reaches the consumer, compared to average figures of 30-60%.  At the other end, North America performed poorly. In Canada, 80% of water withdrawals are for agriculture. Predictions show that climate change is likely to shift crop production northerly, and increase reliance on irrigation, pesticides and herbicides. Further, the world’s two largest food producing countries (China and India) ranked 99th and 108th (out of 113 countries) respectively for water related risks.

Another interesting finding from the report was that Brexit will pose an extreme risk to the United Kingdom’s food security progress. About one quarter of food in the UK is imported from the European Union. Further, the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy also accounted for over half of British farmers incomes in 2015. These subsidies will no longer exist following Brexit.

When we think of food security, it’s easy to quickly think of poor developing regions around the world. But, in a highly integrated global economy, it is important that food security is thought of as a global issue which affects both developed and developing nations. Investments in research and development in agriculture, improved technologies to foster more efficient resource use, adaptive strategies to mitigate risks to climate change, and smart policy development are vital for food security progress in countries all across the world.  

For more information, read the full report here: http://foodsecurityindex.eiu.com/

Sources:

http://foodsecurityindex.eiu.com/

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2017-food-security/?cmpId=flipboard

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