News / Economy

    Study Finds Hungriest Countries Among Fastest-Growing

    WASHINGTON — Some of the world’s hungriest countries are also the among the fastest-growing, according to a new measure of global food security.

    Several sub-Saharan African countries at the bottom of the new Global Food Security Index, including Mozambique, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Niger, are expected to be among the most rapidly expanding economies in the next two years.

    “That was a finding that was a bit unexpected,” says Leo Abruzzese, global forecasting director for the research company the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which created the index. EIU is the research branch of the British company that publishes the prestigious news magazine The Economist.

    Rankings

    The index combines 25 indicators of food affordability, availability, quality and safety to produce rankings for 105 countries.

    Not surprisingly, industrialized countries including the United States, France, and Germany topped the index, while sub-Saharan Africa made up much of the bottom.

    But Abruzzese says growth in several sub-Saharan African countries will provide them with an opportunity as rising incomes bring more tax revenue for governments.

    “And one would assume or hope that food security would be an area that governments in poor countries would want to devote some attention to,” he says.

    "What gets measured gets done"

    U.S. chemical and agricultural giant Dupont commissioned EIU to develop the new index to measure food security country by country.

    “When we approach a problem, we have a mantra. It says, ‘What gets measured gets done,’” says Dupont Chief Executive Officer Ellen Kullman.

    Countries’ rankings will be adjusted quarterly to account for fluctuations in food prices, and annually for longer-term measures such as spending on agriculture research, transportation infrastructure and agricultural import tariffs.

    U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah notes that those kinds of government policy issues are major factors holding back many hungry countries’ farmers.

    “This index and highlighting the policy conditions that exist around these farmers I think will go a long way in helping to bring visibility to what can be done to solve the problem,” he says.

    "Hard to do"

    But Cornell University economist Chris Barrett is cautious about the value of the new index. He says other attempts to measure food security and how it affects people are flawed.

    “That’s just the nature of the beast. This is really hard stuff to do,” he says. “We’ve just not figured out yet how to do it.”

    But Barrett applauds the effort. And, he says, it shows that people are taking the issue of food security more seriously.

    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

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