South Africa tops in Food Security Index

South Africa has been ranked the top most African country in the 2013 Global Food Security Index (GFSI) released this month. On position 39, the country has gone one step up from position 40, which it occupied in 2012.

The GFSI is an annual measure of the state of global food security. The Index scores three categories of affordability, availability, and quality and safety across a set of 107 countries.

South Africa and Botswana are the only countries from Sub-Saharan Africa to score above 50 percent.

South Africa topped the lists on both affordability and quality and safety categories, and came second on availability in Sub-Saharan Africa. On affordability, the country scored 60.8; on availability 62.2; and on quality and safety 57.9 percent. On overall, South Africa scored 61 percent.

On the flip side, at position 107, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the worst performing country in the region and the whole Index. DRC scored the worst in two of the categories, affordability and quality and safety, out of all the countries. It was second from the bottom on availability. On Affordability DRC scored 12.9, on availability 29.1, on quality and safety, 17.8 and overall 20.8 percent.

In DRC, about 70 percent of household spending goes to food while in most Sub-Saharan African countries food consumption accounts for about 50 percent, according to the Index. On the quality and safety category, DRC has been ranked at the bottom for lack of even basic national nutritional guidelines.

“Costly food and large, vulnerable populations … put DRC at the bottom of the index for affordability. The DRC … also lacks food safety net programmes to support their at-risk communities,” reads the Index.

The findings have revealed that food insecurity is a chronic problem in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the region remains at the bottom of the Index. However, Sub-Saharan Africa has showed the biggest gain on food security, climbing by just under one point.

According to the findings, there was little change in overall food security from last year. “The average score for all countries in the latest index was 53.5, virtually unchanged from 53.6 in the 2012 model.”

Despite improvements, Sub-Saharan Africa continued to score the poorest of any region in food safety. The trend has been attributed to the presence of aflatoxins—acarcinogenic toxin produced by mould—in maize and peanuts, among others.

Until 2008, South Africa was the only country in Africa that allowed the commercial cultivation of genetically modified crops, such as maize, cotton and soybeans, according to a Reuters Report.

That year Egypt started growing small quantities of altered maize and Burkina Faso allowed GM cotton. Last year, Sudan also began allowing GM cotton. They are still the only four African countries that allow GM crops to be grown commercially.

“South Africa still accounts for the nearly all of the 3 million hectares of GM crop plantings in Africa,”

Quoting the African Biosafety Network of Expertise, the Reuters report says Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Uganda have taken the step of approving confined trials of genetically altered plants.

The GFSI, an assessment of food affordability, availability and quality, is an Economist Intelligence Unit publication, commissioned by DuPont. GNA

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