South Africa has maintained a constant 57.8/100 in the 10th annual Global Food Security Index (GFSI), a benchmarking measure established by Economist Impact and backed by prominent agricultural firm Corteva Agriscience. This ranking is despite the consequences of the Covid-19 epidemic.
The GSFI is made up of 58 distinct indicators that look at the underlying causes and drivers of food security in both developed and developing countries. The findings are broken down into four categories: affordability, availability, quality and safety, as well as natural resources and resilience.
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.
South Africa’s global ranking dropped marginally from 69 in the 2020 iteration of the index, to 70 among the 113 countries evaluated. Over the recent decade, the country’s performance has likewise deteriorated. A like-for-like comparison using the most recent methodology shows that the country slipped eight points, from 62 in 2012 to 70 in 2021.
According to Tony Esmeraldo, business director for 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 GFSI also demonstrates that eight years of progress toward SDG #2, achieving zero hunger by 2030, has been followed by two years of reversal. New problems, such as the coronavirus, extreme weather, pests and illnesses, have all posed substantial threats to agricultural production and farmer security around the world.
“Insights from the GFSI serve as critical indicators of the well-being 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.
The good and the bad
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.”Christo van der Rheede, executive director of Agri SA
Ali Abdi, minister counsellor for agricultural affairs at the United States embassy, reiterated the United States department of agriculture’s 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.”