John Maday, Managing Editor
Imagine if it took 70 percent of your disposable income to put food on your family’s table, leaving just 30 percent for all other expenses. It is hard for us to imagine, but that’s the reality for the average person in Congo, Cambodia or Nepal, according to the Food Security Index, a major report sponsored by DuPont that ranks food affordability, availability, and quality across 105 countries.
In several other countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, food accounts for 50 percent or more of household expenditures. In the United States, food accounts for a dramatically lower 13.9 percent of household expenditures, and in Switzerland, the figure is even lower at 7 percent.
Overall, the report ranks the United States first, followed by Denmark, Norway and France as the most food-secure countries in the world, based on a combination of ample food supplies, high incomes, low spending on food relative to other outlays and significant investment in agricultural research and development.
Compared with the average across the 105 countries, the United States has a 39 percent advantage in food consumption as a share of household expenditures, a 60 percent advantage in per-capita gross domestic product, a 40.6 percent advantage in sufficiency of food supply, a 64.6 percent advantage in public expenditures for agricultural R&D, a 45.1 percent advantage in diet diversity and a 45.7 percent advantage in protein quality.
The Central African nation of Congo ranks at the bottom for overall food security, falling at 104 of 105 for food affordability, 103 for food availability and 105 for food quality and safety. Further north in Africa, Chad ranks the next lowest, with a rank of 105 out of 105 for food affordability, 104 of 105 for food availability and 89 for food quality and safety. Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, ranks 80th of 105 for overall food security.
The report notes that the average individual needs 2,300 calories per day to live a healthy and active life. Among wealthy nations, there is enough food for each person to eat 1,100 calories more than that. (And many of us do.) In low-income countries, national food supplies fall, on average, 100 calories short of that basic requirement.
Interestingly, the report indicates that countries with the best overall food security tend to fall short on
micronutrient availability. Of the top ten countries in the index overall, only France ranks in the top ten in that category. Compared with the average across the 105 countries, the United States has a 15.8 percent advantage in micronutrient availability. Among the micronutrients specified in the report, the United States is 32.4 percent above average for vitamin A availability, 29.1 percent above average for animal-based iron availability and 14.2 percent below average for vegetal iron availability.
The report further illustrates the challenges agriculture faces in meeting global food needs in the coming decades. Many of the countries in the lower half of the Food-Security Index also are experiencing rapid population growth, with limited potential for expanding agricultural production. Global agriculture must continue to become more efficient, producing more food with less land, less water, less fuel and less waste.
Explore the Food Security Index.