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Issues Related to Food Security

International Food Security Assessment 2011-21 (July 2011) estimates that the number of food-insecure people in 77 lower-income countries will decrease about 1 percent from 2010 to 852 million in 2011.  The number of food-insecure people at the aggregate level is projected to decline by 16 percent over the next decade, with most of the improvement coming in Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean.

International Food Security Assessment, 2010 Update: Improved Production Mitigated Impact of Higher Food Commodity Prices (May 2011) updates food commodity prices, domestic grain production, and export earnings data used in the USDA-ERS Food Security Assessment, 2010-20.  Results show an overall improvement in food security for 2010 relative to the 2010 projections despite the higher prices.  The total number of food-insecure people is estimated to be 9 percent lower than the initial estimate.  Sub-Saharan Africa is the one region included in the study where food security is estimated to have unambiguously improved relative to the earlier analysis.  With domestic grain production accounting for roughly 80 percent of the region's grain consumption, the key driver of the improved result was an increase in grain production compared to the earlier estimate.  In fact, many countries in the region had bumper grain crops in 2010.

Food Security Assessment 2010-20 (July 2010) estimates that the number of food-insecure people in 70 lower income developing countries will decrease about 7.5 percent from 2009 to 882 million in 2010, due in part to economic recovery in many of these countries.  The number of food-insecure people at the aggregate level will not improve much over the next decade, declining by 1 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Food Security Assessment, 2008-09 (June 2009) estimates that after rising nearly 11 percent from 2007 to 2008, the number of food-insecure people in 70 lower income countries will rise to 833 million in 2009, an almost 2-percent rise from 2008 to 2009. Despite a decline in food prices in late 2008, deteriorating purchasing power and food security are expected in 2009 because of the growing financial deficits and higher inflation that have occurred in recent years

Obesity in the Midst of Unyielding Food Insecurity in Developing Countries (September 2008) recounts that the continued escalation of food prices has again focused attention on global food insecurity and its root cause, poverty. Despite international commitments to improve food security in low-income countries, progress has been limited. However, the persistence of widespread food insecurity is troublesome because food consumption in many developing countries has improved, sometimes to the point that overweight and obesity are becoming concerns.

Food Security Assessment, 2007 (July 2008) projects that the food security situation in 70 developing countries will deteriorate over the next decade. The estimates also indicate that the number of food-insecure people for these countries rose between 2006 and 2007, from 849 million to 982 million. Food and fuel price hikes, coupled with a slowdown in global economic growth, hinder long-term food security progress. For a related Amber Waves article, see A Pilot Program for U.S. Food Aid (November 2008).

Rising Food Prices Intensify Food Insecurity in Developing Countries (February 2008) reports that the use of food crops for biofuels, coupled with greater food demand, has reversed the path of declining price trends for several commodities. For highly import-dependent or highly food-insecure countries, any decline in import capacity stemming from rising food prices can have challenging food security implications. Food aid, a key safety net source, has stagnated during the last two decades, and its share has declined relative to total food imports of low-income countries.

Food Security Assessment, 2006 (June 2007) projects that the number of hungry people in 70 lower income countries rose between 2005 and 2006, from 804 million to 849 million. However, the food distribution gap-an indicator of food access-declined, which means that, although more people are vulnerable to food insecurity, the intensity was less in 2006 than in 2005. By 2016, the number of hungry people is projected to decline in all regions, except Sub-Saharan Africa.

Food Security Assessment, 2005 (May 2006) estimates and projects food gaps in 70 low-income developing countries and presents findings for North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Commonwealth of Independent States. On average, there has been a slight decline in the number of hungry people, from 688 million in 1992-94 to 639 million in 2002-04. Asia experienced the greatest decline in the number of hungry people. Despite strong growth in food production, Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where the number of hungry people-over 19 percent of the population-has risen during the last decade.

Food Security Assessment, 2004-05 (May 2005) projects food gaps in 70 low-income developing countries and presents findings for North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Over the coming decade, food security is projected to improve most significantly in Asia, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean. The situation is expected to deteriorate in Sub-Saharan Africa, where deep poverty, political unrest, and the effects of HIV/AIDS hinder prospects for improvement.

Food Security Assessment, 2003-04 (May 2004) projects food gaps in 70 low-income developing countries and presents findings for North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Food aid's past performance and future role are discussed in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. food aid program. Special articles focus on food security and food assistance programs in Brazil and food security developments in Russia.

Food Security Assessment, 2002-03 (February 2003) projects food gaps in 70 low-income developing countries and presents findings for North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union. Special articles focus on methods used to measure food security in the United States and consumer and producer price policies in India.

Food Security Assessment, 2001 (April 2002) projects food gaps in 67 potentially food-insecure countries and presents findings for North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union. A special article focuses on market reform and food security policies in China.

Food Security in Central America (October 2001) is a series of five reports that were produced as part of USDA reconstruction activities for Hurricane Mitch. They focus on the four individual countries most affected by the hurricane-El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The reports cover issues including historical trends of imports, production, and yields; country-level food gaps; implications of changes in growing conditions and movements in export prices on food availability; resource/land-quality constraints to increasing agricultural output; and the cost of a healthy food basket, with comparisons of this cost to income levels in the four countries.

Issues in Food Security (April and June 2001) discusses a broad range of issues to consider at a global level if countries-and their households-are to become and remain food secure. (Links below are PDF files PDF icon (16x16) )

Food Security Assessment, 2000 16x16 - PDF (March 2001) measures food security in low-income developing countries. Two articles focus on the impacts of land degradation and HIV/AIDS on food security.

Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa   16x16 - PDF (December 2000) reviews the historical role of population and the labor force in food markets in Sub-Saharan Africa and the expected impact of HIV/AIDS on the structure of the population.

Food Security Assessment: Why Countries Are at Risk 16x16 - PDF (August 1999) studies trends in food security in low-income developing countries and examines performance of the key factors contributing to these trends: agricultural productivity, foreign exchange earnings, and population growth.

Income Inequality and Food Security 16x16 - PDF (November 1997) presents measurements of inequality among countries and discusses factors that could affect income inequality and food security.

Improving Food Security

Fifty Years of U.S. Food Aid and Its Role in Reducing World Hunger (September 2004) states that most poor countries do not have the financial resources to support national food safety net programs. As a result, they depend on international food aid. Differing objectives in food aid programs, lack of consistency among donors' approaches to food aid, and types of food donated-the share of higher priced, noncereal foods, which are unlikely to reach the poorest segment of the population, is growing-are just a few factors that limit the effectiveness of food aid.

International Evidence on Food Consumption Patterns (October 2003) analyzes expenditures across 114 countries on major consumption categories, including food and different food subcategories. Results indicate poorer countries are more responsive to price and income changes and also allocate larger shares of their total budget to necessities such as food.

Safety Nets: An Issue in Global Agricultural Trade Liberalization   16x16 - PDF (March 2002) examines which developing countries may benefit and which may lose in the face of liberalization. Current global safety nets, including food aid, are inadequate to stabilize food supplies for vulnerable countries. New proposals are being assessed that could help stabilize grain import prices or manage import costs.

Food Aid: How Effective in Addressing Food Security?   16x16 - PDF (March 2002) evaluates food security situations in 67 developing countries by first projecting the gaps between estimated food consumption and several consumption targets through the next decade. ERS then calculates the food gaps that would remain even after food aid allocations, using the most recently available food aid data.

Who Will Be Fed in the 21st Century? Challenges for Science and Policy (2001) describes how innovative technologies and sound polices can help enhance food supplies and access to food. The number of food-insecure people in the developing world has declined in recent years, but lack of sufficient access to nutritious food remains a persistent problem with devastating human costs.

Policy Options to Stabilize Food Supplies: A Case Study of Southern Africa (June 2001) finds that, for the Southern Africa region, both a grain-stocking program and an import insurance program would have reduced food-supply variability more than historical food aid during 1970-95. The stocking program, and possibly the import insurance program, would have been less expensive than food aid from a donor point of view.

Trade and Food Security

Trade and Development When Exports Lack Diversification: A Case Study from Malawi (July 2009) examines Malawi, a country that earns most of its foreign exchange from tobacco, as a study of export concentration and heavy exposure to volatility. The econometric results suggest that the decline in Malawi's gross domestic product (GDP) when tobacco exports are falling is almost three times greater than the increase in GDP when exports are rising.

Indian Wheat and Rice Sector Policies and the Implications of Reform (May 2007) suggests that future developments in India's food grain sector will be shaped by how policies adapt to the sector's new economic environment. Some changes, such as reducing price supports and the scope of government food grain operations, would likely cut government costs, benefit consumers, allow a larger private sector role in the domestic market, and increase reliance on trade.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act: How Much Opportunity? PDF file (August 2002) reviews the potential implications of the Act, which Congress passed in May 2000, on trade for Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Impacts of Reform on Developing Countries PDF file (January 2001) reviews the implications of a more liberalized global trading environment for trade and food gaps in lower income countries.

Low-Income Developing Countries and Trade Liberalization: An Overview of the Issues PDF file (December 1999) discusses likely issues for agricultural trade negotiations with direct or indirect impacts on the food security of developing countries.

Agricultural Resources and Productivity

Linking Land Quality, Agricultural Productivity, and Food Security 16x16 - PDF (June 2003) explores the extent to which land quality and land degradation affect agricultural productivity, how farmers respond to land degradation, and whether land degradation poses a threat to productivity growth and food security in developing regions and around the world. Results suggest that land degradation does not threaten food security at the global scale, but does pose problems in areas where soils are fragile, property rights are insecure, and farmers have limited access to information and markets.

Sustainable Resource Use and Global Food Security   PDF file (February 2003) illustrates that the concept of food security has expanded in recent years from a relatively static focus on food availability to one that recognizes longer term concerns about access and resources.

Does Land Degradation Threaten Global Agricultural Productivity and Food Security?   PDF file (June-July 2002) reviews the impact of soil erosion and other forms of land degradation on productivity growth and food insecurity, particularly where fragile resources combine with poverty and poorly functioning markets. The article finds that, when markets function well, farmers have incentives to adopt appropriate conservation practices.

Resource Quality, Agricultural Productivity, and Food Security in Developing Countries   PDF file (December 2000) takes advantage of recent advances in data and analytical methods to improve understanding of the ways in which agricultural productivity and food security are affected by the quality of resources.

Agricultural Productivity and Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa   PDF file (December 1998) studies patterns of agricultural productivity growth and finds that most of the variation is due to differences in the application of conventional inputs such as labor and fertilizer.

Resources, Sustainability, and Food Security   PDF file (November 1997) explains the links between resources and food security and presents selected indicators of natural, produced, social, and human resources.

Related Links 

U.S. Department of Agriculture

World Agricultural Outlook Board. Supply and demand estimates, weather, and climate.

Foreign Agricultural Service. Country and commodity information and more.

  • Food aid information. Descriptions of the P.L. 480 program, data for the last 3 years of sales, and updates on current transactions and press releases.
Other U.S. Government

State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Current news on disasters, the agency budget, and policy updates.

  • Sub-Saharan Africa. Information on USAID activities in the region, country information, speeches, and press releases.

Central Intelligence Agency, World Factbook. Information (geographic, economic, and political) on 267 geographic entities in the world.

International Organizations

United Nations, Food and Agricultural Organization.

  • FAOSTAT. Data on production, trade, food balance sheets, fertilizer and pesticides, land use and irrigation, forest and fishery products, population, agricultural machinery, and food aid shipments.
  • Global Information and Early Warning System. Information on global crop outlook, shortages, weather updates, special reports on countries/regions suffering from severe or emergency food situations, and country-by-country information on Sub-Saharan Africa.

World Bank. Country and regional reports and data.

International Monetary Fund. Publications, country information, and press releases.

Other

International Food Policy Research Institute. Research and policy analysis for meeting the food needs of developing countries.

FIVIMS (Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System), World Food Summit.

Michigan State University; Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics; Food Security Group. Information on the Department's cooperative agreement with USAID's Global Bureau, including links to project objectives, country/regional activities, and publications from 1993 to the present.

Last updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2012

For more information contact: Stacey Rosen and Shahla Shapouri

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