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Food Security

Food Security is a Global Challenge

Food security is traditionally defined as food availability and one's access to it.  Over the years however the definition of food security has developed into more descriptive terms as its importance has risen.  The Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and dozens of others today have their own interpretation of food security.

  Food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels [is achieved] when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. 

The Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)   

Despite multiple definitions for food security there are common themes or indicators that tend to appear and underline its characterization. These include food affordability, food availability and accessibility, food quality and safety, and existing natural resources. The FAO and The Economist both measure food security on a country based on these indicators at varying degrees.


Food along with water and air is essential for human life. High levels of food security are necessary for human existence but is also imperative to global and country specific economic growth, stability and prosperity. For example, countries with poor level of food security often face chronic malnutrition which provides limitations in human capital development, which is required to achieve economic growth. Furthermore, low levels of food security place significant stress on government expenditures. It forces governments to invest substantial resources in the short-term through social safety net programs and conditional cash transfers. It also increases their reliance on food imports which is detrimental to long term food self-sufficiency. The FAO has reported that high rates of malnutrition can lead to a GDP loss of as much as 4-5%. 

Food Security Stats



People in the World are Undernourished



Of Adults Aged 18 Years + are Obese



Of All Food is Wasted Around the World


Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

World Health Organization

Food Aid Foundation

Key Food Security Indicators




  • Food prices relative to other goods and services

  • Food costs relative to income levels and GDP

  • Accessibility to food safety-net programs

  • Agricultural import tarrifs

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  • Sufficient food supply

  • Dependence on food aid

  • Crop storage facilities

  • Agriculture, road and port infrastructure

  • Agricultural production volatility

  • Food loss and wastage

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Food Quality &


  • Nutritional standards and guidelines

  • Dietary availability of nutrients and vitamins

  • Food safety and respective agency oversight

  • Accessibility to clean water

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Natural Resources  & Resilience

  • Exposure to droughts, floods, storms and other weather conditions

  • Policies and management

  • Agricultural water risk

  • Soil erosion and reduction in arable land

  • Food import dependency

Source: Economist Intelligence Unit - Global Food Security Index & AGRI Developments

Food security ought to be a priority for all countries, whether developing or developed. Although low levels of food security are commonly associated with poverty stricken countries they are also found in affluent developed countries as well. Food security rankings despite providing a decent gauge of performance are not without limitations. For example, some of wealthiest countries logically fare well in overall rankings as they have the capability and infrastructure to provide accessible, healthy food to their populations. Yet these high rankings dangerously mask their poor natural resources and resilience rank which measures food import dependency to a small degree. This raises the question, how can a country be food secure when they can be highly dependent on others for their food supply?

AGRI Developments has developed its own measure of food security, the Global Food Import Dependency Rankings, which it believes should be used in tandem with other food security indices and rankings. The Global Food Import Dependency Rankings are based on food net imports per capita which indicate how reliant countries are on others to feed their populations.

Learn more about the AGRI Developments Global Food Import Dependency Rankings.

Global Food Security Index Rankings 2018


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  • Qatar and Singapore are two of the wealthiest nations in the word with a global GDP rank of 7th and 9th, respectively. This has provided them with the ability to provide healthy and affordable food conveniently.  

  • Food security country rankings are skewed towards wealth. Wealthy nations appear more secure.


  • Qatar, Singapore, South Korea and the UAE rank among the worlds most secure, yet among the worlds worst in dependency.  They rank among Sierra Leone and Tajikistan.

  • Food dependency should be considered in tandem with security rankings for policy making and strategic plans.

Source: Economist Intelligence Unit - Global Food Security Index & AGRI Developments

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