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PART I

WORLD REVIEW


WORLD REVIEW

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN WORLD FOOD SECURITY

The Sixth World Food Survey,1 issued shortly before the World Food Summit, concluded that while significant progress has been achieved in global food security during the past decades, 20 percent of the population in the developing countries still had inadequate access to food in 1990-92 compared with 35 percent two decades earlier. The absolute number of people with inadequate access to food had declined only slightly from 920 million in 1969-71 to 840 million in 1990-92. As was forcefully pointed out during the World Food Summit, the latter is an unacceptably high figure and implies that about one out of five people in the developing world was facing food inadequacy in 1990-92. This is what motivated the World Food Summit’s commitment to halve, by 2015 at the latest, the present number of undernourished people. The set of objectives and actions for this purpose were enunciated in the World Food Summit Plan
of Action.

Assessing more recent developments in food security presents a number of difficulties, given data limitations for a large number of countries. The interpretation of short-term changes in indicators underlying food security should also be subject to caution, as such changes may reflect, for the countries concerned, transient factors that have limited significance in food security trends. Nevertheless, recent data do present a number of distinct patterns that enable tentative conclusions to be drawn.

Table 1 presents selected indicators relating to food availability, stability and access in developing countries. The countries are grouped according to average levels of dietary energy supply (DES) in 1993-95 (column 4). A close relationship between the various indicators is evident: in particular, the higher the average per caput income (column 11), the lower the level of relative food inadequacy2 (column 6) and the higher the ability to finance food imports (columns 13 to 16).

TABLE 1

Selected indicators relating to food security in developing countries, by DES group

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

Country classes by DES levels in 1993-95

Number of countries

DES

(kcal per caput/day)

Percentage of under- nourished population, 1990-92 average

Food production per caput

(% annual changes)

Real GDP per caput

(1987 US$)

Share of food imports in total exports

Share of food imports in total imports



1989-91 average

1993-95 average

Percentage change 1989-91 to 1993-95


1994

1995

1996

1991-96 average

1993-95

Average annual change, 1990-94 (%)

1989-91

(%)

1993-95

(%)

1989-91

(%)

1993-95

(%)

<2 000

20

1 941

1 853

-4,5

52

-1,3

-1,4

3,1

0,0

343

-4,2

40

55

20

25

2 001-2 300

21

2 213

2 158

-2,5

34

0,3

-2,2

0,3

-0,6

603

0,5

36

44

15

16

2 301-2 500

22

2 406

2 397

-0,4

23

-0,1

2,2

-0,3

0,0

1 573

-0,5

24

26

12

14

2 501-2 800

18

2 548

2 653

4,1

18

1,5

1,8

-0,1

1,2

1 740

2,9

12

13

11

11

2 801-3 000

8

2 787

2 888

3,6

9

-0,1

0,5

1,3

1,0

4 000

1,4

15

16

13

13

>3 000

14

3 135

3 234

3,2

6

0,1

2,0

8,1

4,3

4 736

2,5

19

19

11

11

Note: This review focuses on experiences at the country level. Therefore, all country group averages are simple arithmetic averages, in which all the countries are given equal weight. Population-weighted averages were inappropriate for the purposes of this review, since a few countries dominate each of the country groups in terms of population. It may be noted, nevertheless, that the percentages of undernourished population in the different groups, as shown in column 6, are very close to population-weighted averages. Sources: FAO and World Bank data.

As regards recent trends, the following main features can be observed:

1 FAO. 1996. The Sixth World Food Survey. Rome.

2 The methodology for assessing food inadequacy in a given country is explained in The Sixth World Food Survey, Appendix 3. This methodology replaces the Aggregate Household Food Security Index, previously developed for the Committee on Food Security assessment reports.

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