Amidst the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa has maintained a steady 57.8/100 in the 10th annual Global Food Security Index (GFSI); a benchmarking tool developed by Economist Impact and supported by leading agricultural company, Corteva Agriscience. The GSFI is constructed from 58 unique indicators that examine the underlying drivers and causes of food security across both developed and developing countries. Findings consider four key categories, namely Affordability, Availability, Quality and Safety and Natural Resources and Resilience.
Despite this demonstration of stability, South Africa’s global ranking fell slightly from 69 in the 2020 iteration of the Index down to 70, out of the 113 countries assessed. The country’s performance over the last decade has also declined. When implementing the most recent methodology, a like-for-like comparison shows that the country dropped eight spots, from 62 in 2012 to 2021’s 70.
According to Tony Esmeraldo, Business Director – Southern Africa at Corteva Agriscience, this decline is not just unique to South Africa, “After making rapid gains in the first few years of its inception, the GFSI scores across all nations peaked in 2019, before dropping over the past two years against the backdrop of the pandemic, conflict and climate variability. This drop in GFSI scores has been seen across all regions and nations in all the different income tiers. However, high-income nations in Europe still lead the Index, as they did a decade ago, with Ireland securing the top position, scoring 84. Similarly, sub-Saharan African nations continue to dominate the bottom portion, with Burundi achieving the lowest score at 34.67.”
The Index further shows that eight years of progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #2, zero hunger by 2030, have now been followed by two years of decline. This has been driven, in part, by new challenges such as the Coronavirus, extreme weather, pests and diseases that have significantly threatened agricultural production and farmer security worldwide.
“Insights from the GFSI serve as critical indicators of the wellbeing of a country. In the case of South Africa, it is a stern warning of the urgent actions that need to be taken to address household food security, amongst other essential factors,” comments Christo van der Rheede, Agri SA’s Executive Director.
South Africa did display strength in several areas, including food safety (92.7/100), the availability of micronutrients such as vitamins in the food supply (86.6) and workable agricultural import tariffs (78.4). Weak areas, achieving 0 points, comprised ongoing fluctuations in agricultural productivity, which can create difficulty in predicting and planning for a consistent food supply, and the lack of food security and access policy commitments.
“SA’s agricultural sector has stood out as one of the most resilient contributors to national GDP, with a solid growth of 13.4% year-on-year in 2020, and expected further growth of 7.6% in 2021. The biggest short-term challenges the industry will face, in addition to climate change pressures, are rising input, labour, electricity and fuel costs,” says Esmeraldo. “There is no doubt that the findings of the GFSI 2021 have given industry players a renewed sense of urgency to build a more food secure South Africa. Corteva Agriscience is committed to continuing to develop scientific-based solutions that will help address the existing and emerging challenges that impact food security at its source – on the farm.”
When looking at rankings within sub-Saharan Africa, SA leads the region, followed by Botswana, Mali, Ghana and Burkina Faso. Tanzania showed the most improvement since the Index’s inception, increasing its score by +13.3 to 48.
Ali Abdi, Minister Counselor for Agricultural Affairs at the United States Embassy reiterated the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) support of global food security through in-country capacity building, basic and applied research and improved market information, statistics and analysis. “With 870 million people around the world who do not have access to a sufficient supply of nutritious and safe food, establishing global food security is important not only to the hundreds of millions of hungry people, but also to the sustainable economic growth of these nations.”
Adds, Esmeraldo “It is clear that food security is no longer just a problem within certain country borders, it is now a more systemic challenge that can impact even the most wealthy and resourced countries. Based on data, certain patterns can be identified so that a predictive model can be created, looking at trends for the next ten years. We strongly believe that the current trajectory can be reversed but it will require worldwide collaboration and meaningful investment in agricultural R&D and technology. Only then can we enhance the productivity, financial security, and long-term sustainability of farms and our global food system for generations to come.”
Download full GSFI report here.
To access the GFSI model and other detailed findings visit: http://impact.economist.com/sustainability/project/food-security-index