The Global Food Security Index (GFSI) was developed in 2012 through a joint project of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and DuPont. The GFSI is “a dynamic quantitative and qualitative benchmarking tool that assesses the state of food security in 109 countries across three internationally recognized dimensions: accessibility, affordability, and quality and safety” (www.eiu.com).
The affordability category explores the capacity of individuals within a country to pay for food and the relative costs they may face under both normal circumstances and when there are food-related shocks.
Affordability is measured across six indicators: food consumption as a share of household expenditure; proportion of population under global poverty line, gross domestic product per capita (at purchasing power parity), agricultural import tariffs, and presence of food safety net programs.
The availability category assesses factors that influence the supply of food and the ease of access within a country. Availability is measured across eight indicators: sufficiency of supply, public expenditure on agricultural research and development (R&D), agricultural infrastructure, volatility of agricultural production, political stability risk, corruption, urban absorption capacity and food loss.
The food quality and safety category explores the nutritional quality of average diets and the food safety environment within each country. This category is sometimes referred to by other commentators as “utilization.”
Food quality and safety is measured across five indicators: diet diversification, nutritional standards, micronutrient availability, protein quality and food safety.
The GFSI can act as an early warning mechanism for potential price shocks that may threaten or worsen a country’s food security since it “includes a quarterly food price adjustment factor that updates the index and rankings as global food prices and other macroeconomic indicators, including income levels and exchange rates, change over time” (www.eiu.com).
How does the Philippines compare in Asia? Many will be very surprised.
Globally, the Philippines ranked 65th out of 109 countries. Other Asian countries had better rankings: Singapore 5th, Japan 21st, South Korea 25th, Malaysia 34th, China 42nd, and Thailand 49th. Meanwhile, Vietnam landed 67th, India 71st and Indonesia 72nd.
Singapore has the highest GFSI, followed by Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. What is common among the four countries? They are all food importers.
The food importing countries scored high among the three criteria: affordability, availability, and quality and safety. These countries ranked high on all fronts. They ranked very high in affordability which correlates high income with affordability.
Low tariffs on food and efficient logistics impact on availability. Meanwhile, high food standard and their enforcement influence food quality and safety.
By contrast, rice exporters—Thailand, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Cambodia—scored below the median, except Thailand. The Philippines is right in the middle.
The global rankings by income groups are as follows:
Singapore ranked fifth among 30 high-income countries in GFSI. Not surprising is that the United States ranked first followed by Austria, Netherlands and Norway
Among the 27 upper middle-income countries, the top ranked include Hungary, Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico, Costa Rica and Argentina in that order.
Among the 25 lower middle-income countries, the top ranked are Ukraine, Paraguay, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Honduras, Morocco, Philippines, Egypt and Vietnam in that order.
By contrast, poor countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Cambodia have some of the highest levels of food insecurity seen around the world. Those countries that saw increases in the share of household expenditure spent on food experienced a deterioration in scores, highlighting the strong correlation between shifts in food affordability and overall food security.
Robust governance which affects “volatility of agricultural production, urban absorption capacity, national dietary guidelines and nutritional monitoring systems, in addition to relatively low agricultural import tariff rates, bolstered food security scores across the region. Low levels of economic development in most countries in the region, which impacted micronutrient availability and agricultural innovation and development, hampered regional food security.”
Based on these findings, the low ranking of the Philippines in GFSI should enlighten the public, the politicians, civil society and the media that food security is far more encompassing.
The Philippines is behind in: affordability (poverty incidence and income per capita); availability (sufficiency of food supply, government spending on agricultural research and development, agricultural infrastructure, volatility of agricultural production, and high food loss); and food quality and safety (diet diversity, nutritional standards, micronutrient availability, protein quality; and food safety).
Food security is not only about food supply. It is also about adequate household incomes, food prices, food logistics, and more. Are the public, civil society and private policy-makers, and program movers listening?
(The author is the chair of the MAP Agribusiness and Countryside Development Committee, and the Executive Director of the Center for Food and AgriBusiness of the University of Asia & the Pacific. Feedback at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. For previous articles, please visit map.org.ph.)