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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.

Rice accounts for a growing share of the Haitian diet

Thursday, September 1, 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.

Cultivation of modern crop varieties helps improve food security in Sub-Saharan Africa

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remains the most food-insecure region in the world, but gains in crop yields associated with increased cultivation of modern varieties are leading to improved food availability and food security conditions. Because domestic grain production accounts for about 80 percent of supplies across SSA and grain yields are among the lowest in the world, boosting yields is key to improving food security in the region.? Policy reforms and incentives for farmers have spurred adoption of new technologies, such as modern seed varieties. In Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Senegal, Malawi, and Zambia, 27-55 percent of crop area was devoted to modern varieties in 2006-10; in each of these countries, grain yields have increased between 4 and 16 percent per year.? Scenario analysis indicates the potential for significant additional improvements in SSA food security if more countries are able to increase adoption of modern crop varieties. This chart and analysis is based on Productivity Impacts on Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa, an article in International Food Security Assessment, 2014-2024.

International agricultural productivity growth remains uneven across countries

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Agricultural total factor productivity (TFP) is the difference between the aggregate total output of crop/livestock commodities and the combined use of land, labor, capital and material inputs employed in farm production. Growth in TFP implies that the adoption of new technology or improved management of farm resources is increasing average productivity or efficiency of input use. Worldwide, agricultural TFP grew at an average annual rate of 1.7 percent during of 2002-11, the latest decade for which figures are available. However, not all countries are achieving growth in agricultural TFP. Among developing countries, some large countries like China and Brazil are improving their agricultural TFP rapidly, but many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are lagging behind. Most developed countries are continuing to achieve moderate rates of agricultural TFP growth, but some, such as the UK and Australia, have experienced a slowdown in TFP growth. Maintaining growth in agricultural TFP is necessary for achieving global food security goals and could help preserve natural resources. This map is based on data from ERS? International Agricultural Productivity accounts.

Despite gains, food insecurity remains concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A recent ERS international food security assessment indicates that Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most food-insecure region in the world, although the region shows significant improvement over previous assessments. The share of the population that is food insecure is projected to decline to under 30 percent in 2014, compared with 50 percent or more of the population estimated to be food insecure in the late 1990s. Estimates of the distribution gap?the amount of additional food needed to increase per capita consumption in all income groups to the nutritional target of about 2,100 calories per day?show that the overall gap for the region will decline about 17 percent in 2014. However, the intensity of food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa?measured by the distribution gap?is expected to remain high relative to other regions studied. The overall improvement in food security in the region in 2014 is primarily due to the outlook for increased grain production. The ERS assessment also foresees improved food security conditions in 2014 in Asia and the Latin America and Caribbean region, as well as improvements in the generally food-secure conditions in North Africa. Find this chart and additional analysis in International Food Security Assessment, 2014-2024.

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Celebrated on October 16, World Food Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the worldwide problems of poverty and hunger. 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.?High-income countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have higher food spending in absolute terms, but their food spending share is low. These two countries spent less than 10 percent of their consumption expenditures on food purchased from supermarkets and other food stores in 2013, while the share approached 50 percent in low-income countries such as Kenya. Per capita calorie availability follows the reverse pattern. In 2011, U.S. per capita calorie availability was 3,639 calories per day, while Kenya?s was 2,189 calories?more than one-third less. Middle-income countries such as Brazil and China surpassed daily calorie availability of 3,000 calories per person with a 16-percent share of consumption expenditures for food at home in Brazil and 26 percent in China. The data for this chart come from ERS?s Food Expenditures data product, updated on October 1, 2014, complemented with data from United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization, FAOSTAT.

Most Indian crop yields remain below the world average

Thursday, September 1, 2016

India?s large and diverse agricultural sector is growing more rapidly than it was a decade ago, but per hectare yields of most major crops remain low by world standards despite generally good quality soils; ample, if highly seasonal, rainfall; and the largest irrigated area in the world. Of India?s major crops, only wheat?which is 93 percent irrigated?has average yields near the world average. India?s small scale-farm holdings?the average farm is 1.15 hectares?are often cited as a reason for slow adoption of yield enhancing technology. Another possible factor is the relatively low level of public investment in agricultural research, extension, and market infrastructure.? However, private investment in Indian agriculture is now much larger than public investment and is credited with the development and adoption of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton varieties and hybrid corn, the rapid growth of integrated poultry operations, and the still nascent development of modern food marketing and supply chains. USDA long-term projections for India suggest a continued gradual increase in major crop yields towards potential yields, but greater public and private investment could accelerate the rate of yield improvement. This chart is from the Amber Waves article "Food Policy and Productivity Key to India Outlook."

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

Thursday, August 18, 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.

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.

Agricultural goods are the most common target of export taxes

Thursday, September 17, 2015

During the surges in world agricultural and food prices over 2006-12, many countries restricted agricultural exports by implementing taxes, quotas, or complete export bans. Taxing exports is a longstanding practice among many countries. An ERS analysis of reports by the World Trade Organization found that from 1995 to 2014, 74 countries and trading blocs (out of 121 that were reviewed) applied export taxes for products such as agricultural goods, fishery/forestry products, and minerals/metals, with 58 of these countries taxing at least one agricultural product. Reasons to tax exports include obtaining revenue, supporting the domestic processing sector by reducing the price of raw materials, and—if the exported good is a food product—benefiting domestic consumers and improving the country’s food security. For countries that are important suppliers to world markets, export taxes can lead to higher prices worldwide due to the reduced volume of exports resulting from the tax, thus benefitting competing suppliers while hurting foreign consumers. The chart is based on the report Alternative Policies to Agricultural Export Taxes That Are Less Market Distorting, ERR-187.

Food insecurity to remain most severe in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) will remain the most food-insecure region in the world in 2015, according to the USDA International Food Security Assessment: 2015-2025. The 39 SSA countries included in the study account for about 25 percent of the population of the 76 countries covered, but more than half of the global population estimated to be food insecure in 2015. The intensity of food insecurity in the region is highlighted by the fact that it accounts for roughly 90 percent of the distribution gap—the estimated amount of food needed to raise food consumption in all income groups to the nutritional target of 2,100 calories per day—in 2015. There is, however, wide variation in levels of food security within SSA. In 20 of the 39 countries, 80 percent or more of the population is estimated to be food secure in 2015. On the other hand, there are 9 countries where 90 percent or more of the population is estimated to be food insecure: the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Eritrea, Somalia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, and Chad. Find this chart and additional information in International Food Security Assessment: 2015-2025.

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