Never heard of the Global Food Security Index? Well, it is not exactly a best seller, nor has it been around very long. In fact, the 2013 index is only the second time around for the statistical analysis of the food security situation in 107 nations around the world. Underwritten by DuPont Pioneer, “It is first-of-its-kind ranking tool to comprehensively measure food security and monitor the ongoing impact of agriculture investments, collaborations and policies around the world.” While the index does not get front page coverage, its authors say it is important in any discussion of the world food situation. “Addressing food security is fruitless without measurement tools and global benchmarks, together with a continued commitment, but most important: Action,” said DuPont Pioneer President Paul E. Schickler. The index supporters hope that, as a result of this measurement, governments, aid organizations, and others will take action to address the trends highlighted in the report. There is one trend in particular on which I hope leaders in the US focus.
While the average 2013 Global Food Index Score remained flat (53.5 percent versus 53.6 percent in 2012), some trends emerged from the year-on-year comparisons that shed light on a significant trend: developing nations make progress as industrialized countries face setbacks. Here is what the 2013 index showed.
Sub-Saharan African nations including Ethiopia, Senegal and Botswana made significant progress this past year, rising an average of nine places in the Index, with improvements attributed to rising incomes, greater access to farmer financing along with heightened emphasis on quality food and nutrition. The growth in developing nations contrasts a fall in developed European economies, in particular Greece, as it regressed as fallout of financial collapse and lower gross domestic product.
What is the lesson to be learned here? When a government invests in agriculture and makes it easier for farmers to farm, agriculture thrives, economic activity increases, and there is more food for people to eat. Conversely, when a government spends recklessly on social programs and neglects the economy, the agriculture sector suffers, food production declines, and food insecurity increases. This is a lesson members of the House and Senate should consider as they decide what to put in a new Farm Bill
The index also showed that nations who have long term political and economic stability and whose policies place a priority on nutrition, score very high in food security. Take, for example, the country of Chile. According to the index, “Chile leads Latin America in terms of food availability and affordability and ranks second only to Argentina for its food quality and safety.” The index also shows that nations who do not put a value on nutrition, especially childhood nutrition, have a much greater food insecurity issue. “More than 3 million children under the age of 5 die from malnutrition each year. In Latin America, these issues are especially acute since only 53 percent of countries in the region have official policies regarding nutrition in place in primary schools.” While US food and nutrition programs are in need of fiscal reform, care must be taken not to diminish the importance of nutrition, especially in schools.
The Global Food Security Index is designed to measure and track long term trends in the world food supply. It will help take some of the emotion out of discussions of the world food situation. It will also serve as a reminder to those of us in the US just how important continued support of agriculture and food production is.
by Gary Truitt