Food Security Assessment, 2008-09
by Shahla Shapouri, Stacey Rosen
, Birgit Meade
, and Fred Gale
Outlook No. (GFA-20) 58 pp, June 2009
After rising between 2007 and 2008, the number of food-insecure
people in 70 developing countries is projected to increase between
2008 and 2009, according to USDA's Economic Research Service. This
ongoing rise in the number of food-insecure people is due to the
continuation of high food prices and the global economic downturn.
Food-insecure people are defined ned as those consuming less than
the nutritional target of 2,100 calories per day per person.
What Is the Issue?
The current global economic crisis is threatening all parts of
the world and there is no consensus as to how long it will last and
how deep it will get before a recovery occurs. Reflecting the
uncertainty of the current economic climate, in a January 2009
update the International Monetary Fund (IMF) lowered its initial
October 2008 projections of world economic growth for 2009. This
lower growth, coupled with the financial pressures created by
rising 2006-08 food and fuel prices, has resulted in a precarious
food-security situation for many lower income countries. In Food
Security Assessment, 2008-09, ERS researchers estimate and project
the number of foodinsecure people regionally and in each of 70
developing countries for 2008 through 2018.
What Did the Study Find?
Food security in developing countries worsened between 2007 and
2008. The number of food insecure people in the 70 developing
countries studied by ERS is estimated to have increased nearly 11
percent or about 80 million people in that time. Despite a decline
in prices in late 2008, purchasing power and food security were
expected to deteriorate in 2009 because of the growing financial
deficits and higher inflation that occurred in recent years. ERS
food-security baseline estimations of the 70 countries studied
showed a near-2-percent increase in the number of food-insecure
people in 2009, reaching 833 million.
Growth in the number of food-insecure people is highest in
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) because domestic production is expected to
revert to normal levels in 2009 from the above-average or bumper
crops that were experienced in many countries in 2008. The
distribution gap overall is estimated to decline by 6 percent,
mainly because of the baseline-estimated improvement in food
security in Asia, which far outpaced the growth in the gap in SSA.
The distribution gap is the amount of food needed to raise
consumption in each income group to meet nutritional requirements
of 2,100 calories per person per day.
To evaluate the likely impact of the financial crisis on food
security of lower income countries, ERS developed a scenario based
on the latest IMF projections in which export earnings growth as
well as capital inflows contract from the base level for 2009.
Under this scenario, the number of food-insecure people in the 70
countries is estimated to increase 12 percent (or 97 million) from
the baseline for 2009.
The impact of this scenario is projected to be greatest in the
Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region, where the number of
food-insecure people is estimated to increase 20 percent (or 10
million) from the baseline level for 2009. In the baseline, 32
percent of the region's population were projected to be food
insecure in 2009, but this share is projected at more than 38
percent under this scenario of reduced export earnings and capital
The number of food-insecure people in Asia is estimated to
increase nearly 13 percent (or 47 million) from the 2009 baseline.
As these countries have further increased their share of global
trade, they have become increasingly linked to the state of the
international economic environment, particularly the performance
and policies of the major developed countries. Weakening of
the global economy directly affects the food-security situation of
the countries of this region, many of which suffer from persistent
Under this scenario, the number of food-insecure people in SSA
is projected to increase by 9 percent or 36 million from the
baseline. The countries that will be hardest hit by the economic
crisis are those with high balance-of-payments deficits and high
food-import dependence. In SSA, many countries have become more
dependent on food imports because of a combination of slow domestic
production growth, high population growth (highest of all the
regions), low income growth, market liberalization policies, and,
more recently, a boost in foreign direct investment.
Assuming a rebound in the global economy in 2010, the number of
food-insecure people would remain fl at through the next decade,
reaching 834 million by 2018. The trends in the two large
food-insecure regions of SSA and Asia are projected to diverge;
deteriorating food security is projected for SSA, while an
improvement is projected for Asia. SSA will remain the most
vulnerable region in 2018, with 25 percent of the population of the
70 countries but 57 percent of the food-insecure people.
How Was the Study Conducted?
All historical and projected data are updated relative to the
2007 Food Security Assessment report. Food production estimates for
2008 are based on data from the United Nations' Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) as of February 2009. Historical
production data are from FAO and food aid data from World Food
Programme (WFP). Financial and macroeconomic data are based on the
latest World Bank data, as of February 2009. Projected
macroeconomic variables are either based on calculated growth rates
for the 1990s through the mid-2000s or are World Bank projections.
Projections of food availability include food aid, with the
assumption that each country will receive the 2005-07 average level
of food aid throughout the next decade.