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2020 Global Food Security Index shows decline in food security

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Today, The Economist Intelligence Unit released the ninth annual Global Food Security Index. This index measures the underlying drivers of food security in 113 countries, based on the factors of affordability, availability, quality and safety, and natural resources and resilience.

The GFSI considers food security in the context of income and economic inequality, gender inequality, and environmental and natural resources inequality — calling attention to systemic gaps and most recently how COVID-19 exacerbates their impact on food systems. Based on these findings, global food security has decreased for the second year in a row.

For the third consecutive year, the North America region is leading the world in food security. Europe is a close second, accounting for eight of the top 10 countries. Using a new methodology, Finland tops the list while last year’s leader, Singapore, drops down to 19th place. Ireland retains its second rank position, while the United States moves to 11th place.

This year, the GFSI formally includes “Natural Resources and Resilience” as a fourth main category. This addition marks a significant shift in methodology, revealing food systems’ resiliency against climate change. The sub-indicators under this category include food import dependency, disaster risk management and projected population growth. The 2020 index also measures gender inequality and inequality-adjusted income as sub-indicators for the first time in its history.

Building Resilient Agriculture

The GFSI 2020 shows that rising temperatures and global warming have a direct impact on the agricultural sector and food system. Highly volatile agriculture production in countries like Australia, Norway, and Sweden demonstrates the risk that climate change poses to agriculture and food production. The GFSI finds that agricultural production has become more vulnerable in 49 countries compared to the previous index period. While climate change is notably creating new challenges, farmers are still required to anticipate demand for volume of food. With the increasing impact of extreme weather conditions and demand, there is a great need for staple crops that are more tolerant to extreme weather and can thrive with limited water as well as in poor or limited soil.

Supporting Smart Agriculture

The GFSI 2020 shows creative supply chain solutions powered by new technologies can help alleviate challenges to food security and farmer well-being. A successful mobile technology program can help farmers to anticipate market demands and respond in time, as well as connect them with the right resources, suppliers, and markets.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed existing vulnerabilities in the global food system. Although the various stakeholders have been quick to respond, the lockdown restrictions, and resulting economic fallout, have had a disproportionate impact on those living below the poverty line with limited, if any, social protections. In the agricultural sector, smallholder farmers, the majority of whom reside in rural areas, have suffered a significant loss of income as lockdowns have prevented market access and interrupted the planting season.

Advancing Sustainable Agriculture

The GFSI shows that sustainable farming is essential to food security and farmer productivity. The index shows that the global food systems have been under strain even before the COVID-19 began to spread, with many countries struggling to increase productivity, adapt to a worsening climate and reduce environmental harm. In 2020, both Australia and the U.S. were impacted by high levels of land degradation, ranking 81st and 63rd respectively on the land degradation indicator. According to the index, Latin America suffering from irregular rainfall and above-average temperatures between June and July 2019 led to a second consecutive year of crop failure in the “Dry Corridor” spanning Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.

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