Little change seen in global food security

Little change seen in global food security

USDA analysis finds that global food security situation today is much the same as it was a year ago.

WHILE much has been made over the need to feed 9 billion people by the year 2050, the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis of food insecurity around the world found that one-fifth of the global population is unable "to obtain adequate food for a healthy, active life."

The good news, however, is that the share of the population categorized as food insecure has fallen dramatically over the past decade — dropping from 37% in 2000 to roughly 20% last year.

USDA noted that, according to its analysis of the overall food security situation in 76 low- and middle-income developing countries, the total number of food-insecure people in 2013 actually increased by 3 million from 2012 to 707 million, but Economic Research Service (ERS) estimates showed a roughly 1% decline in the share of the population that fits into that category.

"When broken down by region, ERS estimates of the number of food-insecure people show a slight year-to-year increase for sub-Saharan Africa and Asia but a 4% decline for the Latin America and Caribbean region," the report explains. "North Africa continues to be the most food-secure region included in this study, with less than 10% of the population facing food insecurity."

The bad news, however, is that the outlook for global food security in these regions moving forward is "strongly driven by population growth and productivity projections that are unfavorable in some countries."

To assess food security, ERS based its estimates on aggregate calorie consumption exceeding the nutritional standard of 2,100 calories per person per day, as well as consumption of basic macronutrients, carbohydrates, fat and protein. The report acknowledged, however, that aggregate measures mask wide variations among countries as well as among income groups within individual countries; for example, in many countries, consumption of fat and protein fell well short of the nutritional target (Table).

ERS estimated that the "distribution gap" — measured as the quantity of food needed to raise consumption in each income decile to the nutritional target of roughly 2,100 calories per capita per day — is roughly 15.4 million tons, virtually unchanged from the previous year. The gap is significantly smaller when compared with the prior decade and is down from 24 million tons in 2000.

One of the widest disparities noted in the report is the consumption of protein among the various regions studied. Recent estimates from the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggest that 2 billion people suffer from deficiencies in one or more micronutrients, while the ERS report found that significant numbers are not consuming enough protein (figured as 10% of daily intake in the ERS study, or 53 g in a 2,100-calorie diet).

From 2000 to 2009, growth in protein consumption was highest in Asia (18.5%) but was also strong in Latin America and the Caribbean (10.3%) and in sub-Saharan Africa (9.6%). Even so, average consumption of proteins remained below target levels in sub-Saharan Africa, with 14 of 39 countries analyzed not reaching 53 g.

Large disparities were observed in protein consumption among different income groups. ERS allocated the total amount of available macronutrients among 10 income deciles within each country and found that the lowest income groups in all regions failed or nearly failed to reach the target of 53 g of protein per capita per day (Figure).

 

Armed conflict

Last week, FAO established efforts in the Central African Republic to assist farmers who were driven off their land by a violent rebel uprising that some officials say now borders on genocide.

The U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees estimated that more than 600 people have been killed in the conflict and that more than 400,000 have been displaced.

"The combination of food shortages and poor sanitary conditions in the camps and deep in the bush, as well as extreme poverty, risk triggering serious malnutrition," said Alexis Bonte, acting FAO representative in the country.

FAO said the success of the upcoming growing season is dependent on farmers being able to return to their fields in the next few months, leaving the country's food production hanging in the balance for a second year.

Interestingly, ERS recently examined the impact of armed conflict on household food security in Afghanistan and found that the two are negatively correlated, consistent with the presumption of a "harmful cycle" between widespread violence and food insecurity.

Researchers found, however, that households in provinces with higher levels of conflict experienced a more muted decline in food security than in provinces with lower levels of conflict, all other things being equal.

"The finding is consistent with the likelihood that households in conflict-afflicted areas may be more disconnected from markets and, thus, less affected by price spikes," the report concludes.

Little change seen in global food security

Energy and macronutrient consumption increased across regions

 

-Ratio to targets (per capita daily)-

 

2,100 calories

10% protein*

20% fat**

2000

76-country average

1.05

1.00

0.93

Sub-Saharan Africa

1.02

0.97

0.86

Asia

1.07

0.96

0.86

Latin America and Caribbean

1.10

1.00

1.16

North Africa

1.49

1.10

0.99

2009

76-country average

1.11

1.04

1.03

Sub-Saharan Africa

1.09

0.99

0.98

Asia

1.15

1.06

0.97

Latin America and Caribbean

1.17

1.04

1.17

North Africa

1.57

1.14

0.93

*Based on U.S. Food & Drug Administration recommended threshold target 10% of diet.

**Based on American Heart Assn. recommended threshold target 20% of diet.

Source: Economic Research Service, based on data from U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization.

 

Volume:86 Issue:01

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