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Significant declines in food insecurity expected by 2029 for many low- and middle income countries

Friday, November 15, 2019

ERS’s annual International Food Security Assessment (IFSA) estimates and projects levels of food insecurity at a national level for 76 low- and middle-income countries. ERS projects per capita food consumption based on food prices and income and evaluates it against a daily caloric target of 2,100 calories per person per day—the lower bound of average calorie requirements across all regions, assuming a healthy and active lifestyle. In 2019, 19 percent of the population in the 76 studied countries is estimated to be food insecure. This means that about 728 million people—out of a population of 3.8 billion in the studied countries—consume fewer than 2,100 calories a day. By 2029, based on projected income growth and sustained low food prices, the share of food-insecure people in these countries is expected to decline to 9 percent and the number to 399 million. The biggest improvements are projected for Asia, where strong economic growth, particularly in India and Southeast Asia, combined with slowing population growth, contribute to increasing per capita incomes and expected improved food security by 2029. This chart appears in the ERS report, “International Food Security Assessment, 2019-2029,” released in August 2019.

Global food insecurity is projected to continue to decline over the next decade

Friday, August 9, 2019

ERS’s annual International Food Security Assessment analyzes food insecurity conditions in 76 low- and middle-income countries spanning four regions of the world. The assessment projects per capita food consumption based on prices, income levels, and availability, and evaluates it against a caloric target of 2,100 calories per person per day, a level necessary to sustain life at a moderate level of activity. Across all countries studied, the share of the population that is food insecure will fall from an estimated 19.3 percent in 2019 to 9.2 percent by 2029, and the number of food-insecure people in the four regions will fall from an estimated 728 million to 399 million. While all regions are expected to see improvements in food security, Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to continue to experience the highest rates of food insecurity. Over the next decade, the share of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population that is projected to be food insecure is expected to fall from 35.3 percent to 22.5 percent. Although this improvement is significant, food insecurity in this region would be nearly three times that of any other region by 2029. Conversely, food-insecurity rates for both Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to fall below double digits by 2029. Beginning from the lowest level of the four regions, the rate in North Africa is expected to fall below 2 percent by 2029. This chart appears in the August 2019 ERS report, International Food Security Assessment, 2019–2029.

Food insecurity rates highest in Sub-Saharan Africa

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Food insecurity—the lack of access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food—exists at some level in every country. In 2014, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations created the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) based on responses to a series of survey questions to provide a standardized measure of people’s direct experiences of food insecurity. The measure can be used to track food insecurity around the world and identify risk factors. FIES data from 2017 show significant variations across global regions in the prevalence of food insecurity and severe food insecurity. Severe food insecurity is the most extreme range of food insecurity and generally corresponds to hunger. In 2017, Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest prevalence of food insecurity (55 percent) and severe food insecurity (28 percent), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (32 percent food insecure and 12 percent severely food insecure), and South Asia (30 percent and 13 percent, respectively). Food insecurity and severe food insecurity were lowest in North America and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This chart appears in “Who Are the World’s Food Insecure? Identifying the Risk Factors of Food Insecurity Around the World” in the June 2019 edition of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Global food security improvements are projected to be largest in Asia, but all regions are expected to progress

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

ERS’s annual International Food Security Assessment (IFSA) estimates and projects levels of food insecurity at a national level for 76 low- and middle-income countries. Using a demand-oriented model, ERS projects per capita food consumption based on prices and income and evaluates it against a daily caloric target of 2,100 calories per person per day, a level necessary to sustain a moderately active adult. In 2018, 21 percent of the population in the 76 studied countries is estimated to be food insecure. This means that about 782 million people—out of a population of 3.7 billion in the studied countries—consume less than 2,100 calories a day. By 2028, based on projected income growth and sustained low food prices, the share and the number of food-insecure people in these countries are expected to decline to 10 percent and 446 million, respectively. Projected income growth is positive in almost all countries included in the analysis, although growth rates are lower than in the early 2000s. The biggest improvements are projected for Asia, where strong economic growth, particularly in India and Southeast Asia, combined with slowing population growth, contribute to increasing per capita incomes and expected improved food security by 2028. This chart appears in “International Food Security Expected To Improve, But Regional Differences Persist” in ERS’s November 2018 Amber Waves magazine.

Projected per capita income growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to vary by region

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Based on ERS’s annual 10-year projections for key food security indicators for 76 low- and middle-income countries, the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa continue to be the most food insecure region among all those studied, though levels of food security vary within the region. The 39 Sub-Saharan African countries can be divided into four subregions: Central Africa (4 countries), East Africa (10 countries), Southern Africa (9 countries), and Western Africa (16 countries). Among the subregions, differences in social and economic structure, as well as in average income levels, contribute to the differences in food security. In terms of real per capita GDP growth by 2028 relative to 2018 levels, East and West Africa are expected to experience the largest growth at 25 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Conversely, Southern Africa, the second wealthiest subregion, is expected to grow by only 4 percent over the full 10-year projection period. The poorest subregion in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to remain Central Africa, which has struggled with macroeconomic instability, conflict, and civil unrest. This chart appears in the September 2018 Amber Waves finding, “Sub-Saharan Africa’s Food Security Situation Varies by Region.”

Global food insecurity is projected to continue to decline over the next decade

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

ERS’s annual International Food Security Assessment analyzes food security conditions in 76 low- and middle-income countries. The assessment projects per capita food consumption based on prices and income levels and evaluates it against a caloric target of 2,100 calories per person per day, a level necessary to sustain life at a moderate level of activity. Across all countries studied, the share of the population that is food insecure will fall from an estimated 21.1 percent in 2018 to 10.4 by 2028, and the number of food-insecure people will fall from an estimated 782 million to 446 million. While all regions are expected to see improvements in food security, Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to continue to struggle with significant food insecurity. Over the decade, the share of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population that is food insecure is expected to fall from 35 percent to 24 percent. While the change is significant, food insecurity would be more than double that of any other region by 2028. Conversely, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean are both expected to fall below double digits by 2028. This chart appears in the July 2018 ERS report, International Food Security Assessment, 2018-2028.

Calorie availability and importance of food in household spending are inversely related

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Countries vary in how much their citizens spend on food at home as a share of consumption expenditures. (Consumption expenditures include all household spending, but not savings.) In high-income countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, spending shares on food at home are low because food is less expensive compared to other spending categories, people eat out more often, and incomes are high. In 2016, these two countries spent less than 10 percent of their consumption expenditures on food purchased from supermarkets and other food stores. In Kenya and other low-income countries, at-home food’s share of consumption expenditures can exceed 50 percent. Per capita calorie availability follows the reverse pattern. According to the most recent available data, U.S. per capita calorie availability was among the highest at 3,682 calories per day, while Kenya’s was estimated at only 2,206 calories per day, reflecting differences between the countries in supplies of food available for people to eat. This chart appears in ERS’s web product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials.

Global food insecurity as a share of the population declined as cereal grain production and imports rose

Monday, February 12, 2018

Global food security—when people have access to at least 2,100 calories per day—has improved over the past 15 years. Two key drivers of past improvements in food security are increased agricultural production and trade. Increases in production and agricultural productivity—producing the same or more output with fewer inputs like fertilizer or land—have improved food security. In countries where climate or lack of land or water resources limit the potential for local production, food imports have played an important complementary role. Since 1990, among the 76 low- and middle-income countries studied, production and imports of cereal grains and their equivalent has increased by 16 and 115 percent, respectively—although imports started from a much lower quantity. During this period, the share of populations experiencing food insecurity fell from 42 to 12 percent. Despite past success, challenges remain. Maintaining agricultural productivity growth as the global population rises will require investments to generate and deliver new technologies as well as efforts to broadly spread their adoption in food insecure countries. This chart appears in the February 2018 Amber Waves finding, "Progress and Challenges in Global Food Security."

Fruit and vegetable consumption falls short for many in the developing world

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

While food insecurity—measured as not having access to at least 2,100 calories per day—has declined across all regions of the world, challenges remain. Food insecurity is still prevalent in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. A key component of food security is access to fruits and vegetables, which are rich in essential nutrients. Latin America and the Caribbean has the highest fruit and vegetable intake level, being the only region with average consumption reaching the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 400 grams per capita of fruit and vegetable consumption per day. Sub-Saharan Africa falls short of the threshold for all income groups, and in Asia, only the highest income consumers are currently exceeding the target. Among the lowest income individuals across regions, however, consumers are especially sensitive to prices and are prone to rely on cheaper staple foods like grains over more expensive foods including fruits and vegetables. Globally, food security is projected to continue to improve as more developing nations grow economically, ultimately leading to increased fruit and vegetable consumption. This chart appears in the ERS Amber Waves feature, "International Food Security Assessment, 2017-27," released in July 2017.

Index insurance programs have grown as a risk management tool in Sub-Saharan Africa

Thursday, September 21, 2017

In the developing countries of Africa, most of the crop production needed to feed the region comes from smallholder farmers. But because of the risk of catastrophic loss, many of these farmers are unwilling to fully invest in inputs like machinery or better seeds, despite the potential to increase their average production and income. Index insurance (insurance based on a measure of weather that is highly correlated with farm-level losses), could help increase agricultural investments by allowing smallholder farmers manage their risk in places where traditional insurance might not be offered. Successful programs recently focused on developing countries include the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative, Agriculture and Climate Risk Enterprise (ACRE Africa), and Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) in Kenya. These programs, which have grown significantly since 2009 when fewer than 1,000 farmers were covered, have taken a holistic approach by offering index insurance alongside other risk management services and credit assistance. In 2016, nearly 400,000 farmers were covered. There is evidence that index insurance is improving farmer productivity and well-being in some developing country cases. In Senegal, insured R4 program participants increased rice production at 10 times the rate of uninsured control group farmers from 2013 to 2015. Index insurance is a promising approach to providing insurance and improving risk management, but it is still at the early stages of adoption and is available to only a small number of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 50 million farms. This chart appears in the ERS report, "Progress and Challenges in Global Food Security," released in July 2017.

By multiple measures, global food security has improved significantly since 1990

Friday, August 25, 2017

The United States made commitments to end global food insecurity by 2030 as part of the 2015 Global Sustainable Development goals. In 2016, the country enacted the Global Food Security Act, which seeks to reduce food insecurity and poverty through agricultural-led growth, increased resilience, and a broad commitment to improved nutrition. Because initiatives to address international food insecurity are evidence driven, advances in measuring food security remain critical to monitoring and evaluating progress. Assessments using metrics that primarily capture food availability and access dimensions confirm significant improvements in global food security over the past few decades. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the prevalence of undernourished people in the developing world declined from 23.3 percent to 12.9 percent between 1990 and 2015. The ERS International Food Security Assessment, 2017-27, finds that the prevalence of undernourishment has more than halved between 1990 and 2015 for the 76 low- and middle-income countries that USDA regularly tracks. This chart appears in the ERS report "Progress and Challenges in Global Food Security," released in July 2017.

After 15 years, the United States resumed bone-in chicken exports to South Africa in 2016

Monday, March 20, 2017

Until 2001, the United States was the largest supplier of bone-in chicken to the South African market. But in 2001, South Africa imposed anti-dumping duties on U.S. chicken leg quarters, after which U.S. exports dropped nearly to zero. In 2015, under pressure from the U.S. poultry industry, Congress threatened to exclude South Africa from the upcoming renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), unless the country provided greater market access to U.S. poultry. South Africa agreed in June 2015 to allow a quota of 65,000 metric tons of U.S. bone-in chicken at the most favored nation tariff rate of 37 percent. The first U.S. chicken entered the South African market in March 2016. Total U.S. exports of bone-in chicken to South Africa during 2016 reached 21,291 metric tons, taking 11 percent of the market. The U.S. share came at the expense of Brazil and Argentina, both of which saw a drop in their exports to South Africa. The largest supplier was the European Union (EU), which maintained its 74 percent share of South African imports of bone-in chicken. This chart appears in the March 2017 Amber Waves finding, "South Africa Resumes Imports of U.S. Chicken Following 15 Years of Anti-Dumping Duties."

As incomes grow, poultry consumption in South Africa rises

Friday, December 2, 2016

Like many middle-income countries, South Africa’s rising income has been accompanied by significant increases in per capita meat consumption. Poultry meat, being cheaper than other meats, accounts for most of the growth. Per capita poultry consumption more than doubled from 17 kilograms in 1994/95 to 40 in in the 2013/14 marketing year. In recent years, beef consumption has also risen, but poultry consumption remains dominant. Consumption of other meats has remained constant. South Africa’s real per capita income has maintained almost uninterrupted growth since 2000, only dropping in 2009 with the global recession. The initial surge in poultry consumption in the early 2000’s closely tracks the rapid rise in per capita income. While domestic production of poultry has expanded rapidly to accommodate demand, imports have grown at an even faster rate. This chart appears in the ERS Poultry Production and Trade in the Republic of South Africa: a Look at Alternative Trade Policy Scenarios special outlook report released in November 2016.

Food insecurity is expected to decline across much of the globe, but remain most pronounced in Sub-Saharan Africa

Friday, August 19, 2016

The 2016 USDA International Food Security Assessment projects that food insecurity will decline over the next 10 years for the 76 low and middle-income countries examined by ERS. The projected improvement, which is based on a new, demand-driven model introduced in this year’s report, is the result of the outlook for declining real food prices and rising incomes across most of the countries that is provided in USDA Agricultural Projections to 2025, released in February 2016. The share of population that is food insecure in the 76 countries is projected to fall from 17 percent in 2016 to 6 percent in 2026. At the regional level, the greatest improvement in food security is projected for Asia, where the food-insecure share of the population falls from 13 to 2 percent. In 16 of the Asia region’s 22 countries, less than 5 percent of the population is projected to be food insecure in 2026. In the Latin America and the Caribbean region, the share of population that is food insecure is projected to fall from 15 percent in 2016 to 6 percent in 2026, with strong gains expected in all countries except Haiti, where improvement is expected to be relatively modest. Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to remain the most food-insecure region in the world but, like the other regions, its food security situation is shown to improve over the decade—although at a slower rate. This chart is from the ERS report, International Food Security Assessment: 2016-2026, released June 30, 2016.

Rice accounts for a growing share of the Haitian diet

Friday, May 20, 2016

Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the world, and rice is a critical component of the Haitian diet. In 1985, the supply of rice per capita in Haiti was estimated at only 13.1 kilograms per year, well below the 31 kilograms for corn and 94 kilograms for starchy roots, historically the largest component of Haiti’s food supply. In 1986, Haiti began to open its market to imported rice, and by 2011 per-capita rice availability grew to 48 kilograms. Rice imports also changed the character of the Haitian diet, with rice now accounting for almost one-quarter of total calorie consumption. Since 1985, per-capita food availability of all foods, in calories, increased by about 11 percent, mirroring the increase in rice and resulting in improved food security. Efforts are underway in Haiti to increase its domestic agricultural output, but even with significant productivity gains, Haiti is likely to continue to rely on imported rice for a large part of its food needs. This chart is from the February 2016 report, Haiti’s U.S. Rice Imports.

Food use of grain in Sub-Saharan Africa is down this year

Monday, April 25, 2016

Across Sub-Saharan Africa, coarse grains, including corn, sorghum and millet, are a prominent part of the diet and are supplied mostly from domestic production. Wheat and rice play a smaller role and a significant portion of those grains are imported. In 2015/16, weather was influenced by a strong El Nino in the Pacific, and rainfall patterns shifted, leaving several major Sub-Saharan production areas in drought. Coarse grain production in the region in 2015/16 is estimated to be down about 14 percent from the previous year’s record output. Production was sharply reduced, especially in the populous countries of South Africa, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Wealthier countries such as South Africa can offset much of the production drop through reduced exports, increased imports, and drawing on stocks held over from the previous harvest. Ethiopia is expected to boost imports, especially wheat. The sharp drop in production in Sudan could be mostly reflected in reduced food consumption. This chart is from the April 2016 Feed Outlook report.

Imported rice supports food security in Haiti

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Rice is a critical component of the Haitian diet and access to adequate supplies of rice is a vital food-security objective of the Government of Haiti. Haiti began to open its market to imported rice in 1986, and the greater availability of rice allowed consumption to grow. Today rice consumption in Haiti accounts for about 23 percent of the total calories consumed each day. Rice production in Haiti has stagnated for decades, reflecting low productivity and poor access to financing, technology and skilled labor, so all of the growth in rice consumption since 1996 has been supplied by imports, which now account for 80 to 90 percent of rice consumption. The United States is the primary supplier of rice to Haiti, and Haitians have demonstrated a clear preference for U.S. long-grain varieties, greatly preferring them over cheaper Asian varieties. Efforts are underway to improve agricultural performance, but even with significant productivity gains, Haiti is likely to continue to rely on imports of rice for a significant part of its food needs. This chart is from the report Haiti’s U.S. Rice Imports.

Increased productivity now the primary source of growth in world agricultural output

Friday, October 16, 2015

The average annual rate of global agricultural output growth slowed in the 1970s and 1980s, then accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s. In the latest period estimated (2001-12), global output of total crop and livestock commodities was expanding at an average rate of 2.5 percent per year. In the decades prior to 1990, most output growth came about from intensification of input use (i.e., using more labor, capital, and material inputs per acre of agricultural land). Bringing new land into agriculture production and extending irrigation to existing agricultural land were also important sources of growth. This changed over the last two decades, as input growth slowed. In 2001-12, improvements in productivity—getting more output from existing resources—accounted for about two-thirds of the total growth in agricultural output worldwide, reflecting the use of new technology and changes in management practices by agricultural producers around the world. This chart is based on the ERS data product, International Agricultural Productivity, updated October 2015.

Global food insecure population projected to increase

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Friday October 16 is World Food Day, which offers an opportunity to highlight global poverty and hunger concerns. USDA’s annual International Food Needs Assessment, covering 76 low- and middle-income food-insecure countries, has indicated a long-term decline in the population that is food insecure, based on the nutritional target of 2,100 calories per person per day. While the food-insecure population has declined substantially in Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) it has remained high and is projected to rise. Factors that have contributed to declines in the food-insecure population share include gains in domestic production of food staples, slowing population growth rates, and increased food imports due to higher export earnings and lower prices for imported food. Although food security is projected to be stable or improve in most SSA countries through 2025, it is projected to deteriorate in a number of countries, particularly those coping with prolonged civil strife. For additional information, see International Food Security Assessment, 2015-2025.

In Bangladesh, food security status is not the same for all household members

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Estimates of food-insecure populations are usually based on data aggregated at the household level, with the assumption that calories are distributed equitably within each household. However, recent ERS research on Bangladesh found that the food security status of a large share of the population is misclassified because calories are not distributed equitably across household members. Two patterns stand out. First, in households classified as well nourished, about 45 percent of the children in those households were actually undernourished. Second, in households classified as undernourished, about 68 percent of household heads—primarily men—are actually well nourished. In those undernourished households, it is primarily the spouses and children that are undernourished. This research shows that food is not always distributed equitably within families, and that the depth of undernourishment for some individuals may be greater than traditional household surveys would suggest. This chart is based on the report Using Household and Intrahousehold Data To Assess Food Insecurity: Evidence from Bangladesh, ERR-190.

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