I presented the European regional findings of the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) during a BBC Follow the Food webinar. The GFSI considers the issues of food affordability, availability, quality and safety, and natural resources and resilience across a set of 113 countries.
The session included a conversation between Yann-Gaël Rio, Global Vice President for Nature & Agriculture at Danone and James Wong, ethnobotanist and presenter of the BBC series, Follow the Food. A regional inspiring story focused on farmer and member of Confagricoltura, Italy, Deborah Piovan.
Global hunger is on the rise, reversing decades of progress. More than 2bn people now lack year-round access to adequate food. Climate change, extreme weather events, conflicts and economic downturns are some of the factors driving growing food insecurity. So what is being done to reverse this decline and what else is needed? This BBC Global News webinar examined the biggest challenges facing the world food system. The hour-long event included a key note interview as well as interviews with the team behind the Global Food Security Index to explain the findings and ten year trends as well as regional “breakout” segments covering Asia, Middle East and Africa, North America, Latin America and Europe.
Out of the four categories of the index, the region performed best in the Affordability pillar. In terms of the ten-year trend of the overall food security environment score for selected countries in Europe, the UK is one of the three top performers alongside Ireland and Austria. Spain is one of only three countries (with Portugal and Norway) whose food security environment deteriorated over the past decade. Russia is among the countries that has seen the largest improvement since 2012. Turkey has seen lots of swings in its performance. And finally Ukraine has consistently remained among the region’s weakest performers.
Since the inception of the index in 2012, the vast majority of countries in the region have made gains in their food security. Russia, Bulgaria, and Belarus saw the biggest improvement in the Overall Food Security Environment scores. Out of 26 countries, 25 experienced an improvement in Affordability, 24 on the Natural Resources and Resilience metric, 13 on Quality and Safety, and 12 on Availability.
In terms of what drove those changes let’s look at the most improved countries. For example, Russia improved considerably in the natural resources and resilience category thanks to stronger political commitment to adaptation. Meanwhile, an improvement in the volatility of agricultural production indicator drove Bulgaria’s score for availability. And a favourable change in average food costs strengthened Belarus’ affordability score.
When we look at some of the factors that currently threaten food security across Europe, we see that the region faces some challenges. First, the impact of Covid-19. As a result of disruptions to global supply chains, the Covid-19 pandemic had a negative impact on food affordability and availability in Europe. 13 out of 26 countries in the region experienced a decline in their Affordability category scores over the period 2020-21, and 12 out of 26 countries experienced a depreciation in their Availability scores.
Second, the adverse impacts of climate change on agri-food systems in Europe are already being felt across the region. 14 out of 26 index countries in the Europe region have experienced an increase in the volatility of agricultural production since 2012. Over the same period, 13 out of 26 countries have experienced an increase in their dependency on food imports.
So what can be done now—specifically in Europe? Four key action items will contribute to building a sustainable and resilient food system for our region.
First, social safety nets aimed at mitigating increases in food insecurity need to be strengthened in some countries in the region. The absence of such social protections resulted in larger negative effects on food availability and affordability during the pandemic.
Second, European countries need to review their dependency on food imports in order to reduce the risk of food shortages.
Third, further public investment can help Europe optimise its potential for growth in terms of agricultural technology and innovation.
And finally, access to market data and mobile banking needs to be improved.
More on food sustainability:
- Podcast: Circular Food
- Launch of Food Sustainability Index
- Food Sustainability Index 2021: Launch Webinar
- Food & Sustainability course
- Speaking at Dubai International Food Safety Conference