Some Improvements Are Projected for Global Food Security

As we approach 2015, the milestone set by the World Food Summit in 1996 to reduce global hunger by half, how close are we? According to ERS projections, the number of people consuming below the nutritional requirement is estimated to decline about 27 percent between 2004 and 2014. Performance by region varies significantly, with the sharpest declines projected for the Asian and Latin American/Caribbean regions, each at 46 percent. The number of people consuming below the requirement is projected to increase in the Commonwealth of Independent States, but that number relative to total population will remain small. In Sub-Saharan Africa, a 15-percent increase in the number of people with a consumption shortfall is projected.

Countries with the greatest improvements in terms of the projected decline in percentage of undernourished people include India, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru, and Kenya. Because India is the most populous of all the study countries (over 1 billion in 2004), even a small decline in percentage terms translates into a large decline in the number of hungry people. The number of undernourished people in the country is projected to decline from 432 million to 123 million during the next decade. In most cases, the improvements in the countries above are expected to be driven by higher export earnings, which will result in higher food imports. For example, in Colombia and El Salvador, these imports are projected to rise at more than five times the rate of population growth. A similar but less pronounced situation is projected for the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Peru.

In contrast to the success stories, there are several countries where the number of hungry people is projected to rise over the next decade. In countries like Afghanistan, North Korea, Nicaragua, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Angola, Guinea, and Somalia, deterioration in food security is principally due to stagnant productive capacity. As a result, the rise in the number of undernourished people will mirror the rate of population increase. Of the countries cited above, all but two are experiencing civil strife, further jeopardizing food security. These countries are among the largest recipients of food aid, but food aid is not expected to increase much to alter the projections. The greatest food security challenge these countries face is to restore peace and expand economic activities.