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GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY CONTINUES TO STRUGGLE AMID THE THREAT OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE SHOCK OF THE GLOBAL PANDEMIC

The Global Food Security Index 2020 highlights the urgent need to build a strong, resilient and sustainable global food system

The covid-19 pandemic has exposed several risks to an already-fragile global food security environment. Even before covid-19 struck, the global food security landscape was deteriorating, with rising inequality and climate risks threatening the stability of our food systems. However, 2020 yielded unprecedented additional pressure on personal incomes, government support programmes, food production and supply chains.

Released today, The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Food Security Index (GFSI), sponsored by Corteva Agriscience, is a benchmarking tool that examines the underlying drivers and causes of food security across both developed and developing countries. The GFSI evaluates how effectively a country is able to meet its population’s calorific and nutritional needs, while also examining the impact of external factors such as agricultural infrastructure, political stability and climate risks, among others.

Now in its ninth year, the 2020 edition of the GFSI incorporates a fourth category, “natural resources and resilience”, into the main index alongside the three existing categories, “affordability”, “availability”, and “quality and safety”. This new methodology acknowledges the critical importance of the resilience of natural resources as a central pillar of the conversation on food security. We hope that this methodological shift will firmly link the dialogue on climate change with the one on food security going forward.

“As the Global Food Security Index sponsor, we are proud to do our part in renewing the collective commitment to creating a more food-secure world,” said James C. Collins, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of Corteva Agriscience. “Corteva believes that it is crucial for all stakeholders to have an honest conversation about insights and solutions to address global food insecurity, and the GFSI sits at the heart of it. This year, the report was strengthened by the fourth pillar, natural resources and resilience, which is a key addition to the index as we work together to secure a more sustainable global food system.”

The GFSI report also highlights the importance of building resilience into food systems and discusses the importance of addressing structural inequalities to enhance the food environment. “The global pandemic, and resulting lockdowns, have tested our food system and exposed vulnerabilities” said Pratima Singh, project lead for the Global Food Security Index at The Economist Intelligence Unit. “We need to address the structural inequalities—economic, social and environmental—that were a fundamental feature of the pandemic. Governments and policymakers, NGOs, and the private sector all have a role to play as we aim to recover from the impact of covid-19 on economies and food systems and invest in innovation to strengthen our global food environment.”

Key findings from the Global Food Security Index 2020 include:

  • After improving consistently for seven years from 2012 to 2018, the overall global food security environment deteriorated for the second year in a row in 2020. Using the new methodology, 62 countries saw their performance drop compared with 2019. The pandemic is likely to exacerbate these risks. Finland tops the rankings for the second year in a row, followed by Ireland. On the other hand, Yemen remains one of the least food-secure countries in the world with heightening fears of a famine.
  • The 2020 GFSI highlights the importance of social safety nets. While social safety nets have proved to be critical in protecting vulnerable groups, the GFSI finds that only 55 countries have a sufficiently funded, national support programme in place. The pandemic has exposed the gaps in functioning of several such programmes, indicating that they are not sufficient during times of crisis. Consequently, the prevalence of food insecurity often increases, particularly among low-income and high-risk groups.
  • The GFSI saw marked improvements in access to mobile phones and digital services. Sixty-three countries improved their performance on this indicator, highlighting the critical role of mobile phones and digital technology in sharing information and knowledge, and receiving digital payments.
  • There is a clear need to further prioritise food security in national policymaking. The GFSI finds that only 54 countries have a national food-security strategy in place, while only 31 countries have a dedicated food security agency. Nutritional standards improved in only five countries in 2020. Defined food-security strategies are vital to helping policymakers address the nutritional needs of vulnerable populations. 
  • Climate risks continue to threaten food security. Climate change has exacerbated environmental inequalities both within and across countries, and high-income countries are not immune. Forty-nine of the 113 countries covered in the GFSI are experiencing increased volatility in agricultural production, while public investment in agricultural research and development has been declining. Encouragingly, 72 countries have highlighted agricultural adaptation as part of their climate change strategies; however, governments and policymakers must prioritise continued action, as much progress is still required.

The Global Food Security Index 2020 will be launched at 9am UK time on Tuesday, February 23rd. The launch will be followed by a live broadcast event at 4pm UK time on Wednesday, February 24th.

To access the global and regional reports and other detailed findings from the index, visit https://foodsecurityindex.eiu.com.

Press enquiries:

For any press enquiries please contact Pratima Singh of The Economist Intelligence Unit at pratimasingh@economist.com.

 

About The Economist Intelligence Unit

The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) is the research arm of The Economist Group, publisher of The Economist. As the world’s leading provider of country intelligence, it helps governments, institutions and businesses by providing timely, reliable and impartial analysis of economic and development strategies. Through its public policy practice, The EIU provides evidence-based research for policymakers and stakeholders seeking measurable outcomes in fields ranging from gender and finance to energy and security. Through a global network of more than 900 analysts and contributors, The EIU continuously assesses and forecasts political, economic and business conditions in more than 200 countries. For more information, visit www.eiu.com or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/theeiu.

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