Food security risk: USA most stable, but India is "high risk"

Archived Article • 06 November 2009 • Press release
A professor at Warwick Business School, Alyson Warhurst, has helped develop a new food security index and map with Maplecroft, a UK based company that provides global risk intelligence for business.
Analysing the risk of food security across 148 countries, the index found that the USA has the most stable food supplies according to the Food Security Risk Index. India meanwhile, ranks 25 and is rated "high risk" due to unsustainable water use and an expanding population. Angola is at extreme risk, along with Haiti, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe.
The Food Security Risk Index (FSRI) measures the availability, stability and access to basic food stocks, as well as the impacts on nutrition and health that result from food insecurity. To provide an accurate picture of global food security, each country was rated on its performance across 19 key indicators. These include: imports, exports and production of cereals, food production per capita, rate of undernourishment per capita, water resources, GDP per capita and global aid shipments.
The USA performs particularly well due to its massive ratio of cereal exports compared to imports and, despite the economic downturn, its continuing buying power. The next best placed countries are France (147), Canada (146) and Germany (145).
India may be one of the world's key emerging economies, but it is finding itself under increasing pressure from food security issues. As much as two-thirds of the country's 1.1bn inhabitants rely on farming as their main source of income, but 21% less land is under cultivation in August 2009, than during the same period in August 2008. This is due to a reduction in the availability of national water resources for agricultural purposes, deforestation and an uneven monsoon in July 2009, which caused widespread flooding and droughts. The resulting reduction in crop yields is likely to inject inflationary pressure into the economy, placing further strain on large sections of the populace.
China (107) is better placed to cope with the risk of food security than India. Food self sufficiency and avoiding shocks in supply and price have long been national security and stability targets and it has been buying large tranches of arable land in Africa to secure future sources.
Food security became a critical issue for many countries after the rises in food commodity prices in 2007 and 2008 sparked rioting in more than 30 countries. The World Bank estimates that about 100 million people are facing deeper poverty due to higher food prices.
The countries rated at highest risk are Angola (1), Haiti (2), Mozambique (3), Burundi (4) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (5). Angola's poor rating is rooted in the 27 year civil war that displaced millions of civilians, brought food production to a standstill and destroyed the country's infrastructure and irrigation systems. Although the country is now at peace and boasts revenues from rich resources of oil and diamonds, this is not fully invested yet by the government in food production or nutrition. Some of the highest risk countries for food security are characterised by poor governance. Conflict, displacement and the destruction of infrastructure also play crucial roles in the ratings of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, whilst the defining factor for Mozambique is vulnerability to weather related natural hazards. Haiti's low ranking is attributed to extreme poverty (the country relies on aid for 48% of its food consumption), long lasting socio-political instability and high vulnerability to natural disasters.
"Food security is a complex issue affected by a range of factors, including agricultural development and capacity, international trade flows, poverty and income distribution, foreign aid, as well as macroeconomic policies and government programmes on nutrition and food fortification. Added to these are the impacts of global population growth and climate change," stated Professor Warhurst. "Both the public and private sectors will increasingly be called upon to mitigate risk from food security, in order to maintain a stable societal context conducive to development."
The structure of Maplecroft's FSRI is based upon the key elements of food security as conceptualised by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which defines food security as a state in which "all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life."
Data sources for the FSRI include: FAO, International Labour Organisation, United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Children's Fund, UN World Food Programme, World Bank and the World Resources Institute.

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