Middle East and Africa have 'highest levels of food insecurity'

Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February worsened the outlook for food prices

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The Middle East and Africa have some of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world, according to a new global report.

Findings from the Global Food Security Q2 2022 report by Deep Knowledge Analytics, showed that Yemen and Syria are in the midst of food crises fuelled by war.

On top of the conflict, climate change and water shortages are affecting Algeria, Iraq, and Yemen too, limiting the availability of resources needed for food production and development of agriculture.

Of the 171 countries evaluated, Syria and Yemen were among the lowest scoring, ranking 148th and 160th, respectively. Central Africa remains the most food scarce region.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February dramatically worsened the outlook for food prices
Global Food Security report

The report assessed the drivers of food insecurity focusing on key trends, including food dependency, inflation, and policy developments.

It said the Mena region will remain one of the most "import-dependent regions in the world", with about 50 per cent of its food imported.

However, some progress in the field of agri-food technology is being made in countries such as the UAE and Israel.

The report evaluated all countries based on three main categories: access to food; crisis level; and food system and economic resilience.

The UAE ranked first among Arab countries in the Food System and Economic Resilience section, ranking 19th globally and beating Austria, Switzerland and the UK.

Overall, the UAE ranked 26th globally in the Index with a score of 7.07 out of 10.

Lack of food globally

Looking globally, the report found that 868 million people do not have sufficient food and 25 countries were considered high risk and deteriorating.

Additionally, the report identified a 30 per cent increase in fertiliser prices since the beginning of the year, which contributed to a decrease in crop production around the world.

“Global food prices and fertilisers started to rise in mid-2020 when businesses shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, straining supply chains,” the report said.

“Since then, there have been problems with key crops in many parts of the world.

“Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February dramatically worsened the outlook for food prices.”

People most affected by the rise of food prices live in developing countries, where a larger share of income is spent on food, it said.

Today, 35 countries have food export restrictions in place. This number rose by 25 per cent this year owing to the Russian war in Ukraine.

As of the end of March, 53 new policies affecting food trade had been adopted around the world, 31 of which restricted exports and nine curbed wheat exports.

Major food exporters such as Argentina, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Russia, as well as smaller exporters such as Algeria, Turkey and Serbia, have introduced food export restrictions on products including pasta, oil, sugar and lentils.

With more countries imposing restrictions, the report said there is a greater risk of “price volatility, panic buying, shortages, and hoarding”.

As a result, 15 countries were deemed “unable to produce their own food”, including Afghanistan, Eritrea and Iraq.

Countries that spend least on food?

Of the nations that are most food secure, the US, Singapore and the UK spend the least household income on food.

In the US, about 6.4 per cent of income is spent on food, rising to 6.7 per cent in Singapore and 8.2 per cent in the UK.

“The more developed a country, the less income is spent by its citizens on food,” the report said.

“Developing countries will have even greater food insecurity and hunger levels with the most vulnerable paying more for less food.”

According to the findings, only eight countries in the world spend less than 10 per cent of their household income on food, four of which are in Europe ― the UK, Switzerland, Ireland and Austria.

The remaining four countries are the US, Singapore, Australia and Canada.

Spending most on food is Nigeria, with more than half of household income (56.4 per cent) going towards produce.

There are nine other countries that spend more than 40 per cent of their income on food including Kenya, Cameroon, Kazakhstan and Algeria.

Countries that fared best overall in the Global Food Security Q2 2022 report were the US, Norway and Ireland, respectively.

Coming in last was Somalia, with an overall score of 2.97 out of 10, following by the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique.

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Updated: July 27, 2022, 3:32 PM