Dubai – MENA Herald: Food security has improved across the globe over the past five years mainly due to the rising incomes across countries, general improvement in the global economy, and falling food prices, according to the findings of the 2016 Global Food Security Index (GFSI) jointly released by DuPont, an integrated science company, and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research and analysis division of The Economist Group. Over three quarters of the 113 countries in the 2016 GFSI have experienced food security improvements within the same period.
Government efforts in the MENA region have produced positive results, as its GFSI score saw an ascent by 0.1 points to reach a total rating of 62.1. Qatar, the UAE, and Kuwait were the top performing GCC countries in the Affordability category. Qatar landed the first slot in the world, followed by the UAE (3rd) and Kuwait (6th). All three are high-income countries with a low prevalence of poverty and plenty of public money flowing into their small agricultural sectors.
Under the same category, the UAE shared the third slot with the United States, with the report citing the high-income country’s small population and well-funded public sector as main contributors to food affordability across the state. They were followed by Australia, Ireland, Austria, and Germany. Overall, the UAE ranked fifth in the MENA region and 30th in the world.
Amr El Moniem, UAE Country Manager, DuPont, said: “Over the past five years, we have seen various MENA governments implementing comprehensive food safety programmes to attain their respective food security goals. These key initiatives have effectively driven their total GFSI score ahead of other regions in the world. GCC countries, in particular, have demonstrated unwavering commitment, especially in terms of food affordability, and appropriate measures have been successfully undertaken to achieve its relevant objectives. Aside from the Arab countries, European nations have also demonstrated impressive improvements in their bid to ensure food security for all. The 2016 GFSI have shown encouraging overall results, further inspiring us to intensify our efforts towards ensuring food security across the world.”
Poor scores in the Availability and Quality & Safety categories, however, have held back the MENA region’s overall GFSI scores. Fluctuations in agricultural output on account of their extreme climate and small agricultural sectors, along with the expiry of the 2015 national nutrition plans in Bahrain and the UAE, have contributed to the region’s weaker performances in these categories.
Elsewhere, the Asia-Pacific region has made the biggest gain of +2.1 points in establishing functioning food-safety net programmes, led by Indonesia and Myanmar, while Sub-Saharan Africa has improved by 0.8 points on this indicator. Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia were the five landlocked countries in GFSI’s 40 most food secure countries in 2016. They are considered high-income countries with large agricultural sectors and in close geographic proximity to other top performing countries. Thirty-five of the GFSI’s top 40 most food secure countries are coastal countries.
Despite major strides in global food security efforts, hunger and food insecurity still persist. Weather and climate change-related risks, as well as market-distorting government food policies, pose risks to food prices and food availability in the future. In this regard, governments, multilaterals, and the private sector are urged to remain proactive in addressing food security challenges around the world.
Further, more countries experienced score declines in national nutritional standards between 2015 and 2016. Thirty-six countries —mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, and Central Asia—in the GFSI still do not have national dietary guidelines that encourage populations to adopt a balanced, nutritious diet.
The GFSI is an annual measure of food security across 113 countries, produced by The EIU and sponsored by DuPont. The index looks at 19 specific measures of food security across three broad categories: Affordability, Availability, and Quality & Safety. The index takes a benchmarking approach in its assessment, considering the dynamics of national food systems.