Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 January 2020

Food prices rise globally led by Venezuela and Syria

Food-importing nations to suffer most from climate change and depletion of natural resources, study shows

Bazaar street scene with child selling bread. Islamic Cairo, Egypt
Bazaar street scene with child selling bread. Islamic Cairo, Egypt

Food is becoming more expensive globally with the sharpest price increases seen in turmoil-ridden Venezuela and Syria, according to the Global Food Security Index 2019.

About 26 countries in the index have reported food price inflation of five per cent and above in the past year.

"Argentina recorded the highest inflation rate for food prices in the past year (51 per cent), followed by Turkey (25 per cent) and Egypt (19 per cent)," the report said. "Higher food prices in Argentina and Turkey are a reflection of currency collapses, while in Egypt, rising costs may be attributable to recent economic reforms and austerity measures."

The annual Global Food Security Index assesses food security in 113 countries, looking at factors such as affordability, availability, quality and safety of food around the world.

Singapore, which is in the top 10 countries for GDP per head in the world, ranks at the top of the Global Food Security Index for the second consecutive year, followed by Ireland and the US.

The UAE ranks 21st among 113 countries in the report, with a total score of 76.5 out of 100 in terms of overall food security. In the sub-categories, it ranked fourth in terms of food affordability, 39th for availability of food and 26th for food quality and safety. The key challenge was "public expenditure on agricultural R&D", the report said.

Kuwait was ranked in 27th place in terms of overall food security globally and was among the countries making the biggest improvements in 2018. Its position improved due to an upgrade in agricultural infrastructure as the government invested in new grain silos and expanded crop storage at its major port. Saudi Arabia is ranked 30th globally for overall food security.

The index also included a metric that measures the impact of climate change and depletion of

natural resources.

"All countries drop points as a result of this layer of analysis, although some see far greater overall score changes," the report said.

Singapore, which imports most of its food, dropped 11 ranks from its top spot for the most food-secure country when that is adjusted for the impact of climate change.

Nations that are heavily dependent on food imports saw their rankings decline significantly when accounting for this factor.

The report also highlighted gaps in global availability of essential vitamins and minerals, where 31 per cent of countries have insufficient vitamin A availability. This essential vitamin is necessary for normal vision, healthy immunity and organ functions. A quarter of countries have insufficient availability of zinc, needed for a functioning metabolism and immune system, the report said.

About 88 per cent of countries in the index report said that there is enough available food supply in the country and yet in over a third of all countries in the index, 10 per cent or more of the population is undernourished.

Updated: December 10, 2019 08:28 AM

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