Food Security Assessment, 2006
by Birgit Meade
, Stacey Rosen
, and Shahla Shapouri
Outlook No. (GFA-18) 49 pp, June 2007
Preliminary estimates inRdicate that the number of hungry people
in 70 lower income countries rose between 2005 and 2006, from 804
million people to 849 million. The two main factors contributing to
this increase were higher food prices and poor economic performance
in several countries. By 2016, however, the number of hungry people
is projected to decline in all regions, except Sub-Saharan Africa.
The most significant improvement is expected in Asia, followed by
Latin America and the Caribbean.
In Food Security Assessment, 2006, the Economic
Research Service (ERS) estimates and projects the number of hungry
people globally, regionally, and in each of the 70 lower income
countries studied. Hungry people are those consuming less than the
nutritional target of 2,100 calories a day. The report also
measures the food distribution gap (the amount of food needed to
raise consumption of each income group to the nutritional
requirement) and examines the factors that shape food security.
Food security is defined as access by all people at all times to
enough food for an active and healthy life.
What Is the Issue?
Recent oil price hikes have raised concerns for low-income
countries over the financial burden of the higher energy import
bill and the constraints that might ensue in importing necessities
like food and raw materials. If food imports become vulnerable,
food security could become more of an issue for some of these
Higher oil prices have sparked global energy concerns, which in
turn, have spurred demand for ethanol and biodiesel in some
food-exporting countries. The resulting increase in demand for
grain, sugar, and vegetable oils (commodities used to produce
biofuels and biodiesel) has resulted in higher food prices, which
compound economic pressure for the low-income countries. These
commodities constitute a large share of the diets in low-income
countries, and therefore, rising prices and their subsequent
inflationary effects are likely to further constrain consumers'
What Did the Project Find?
The average nutritional food gap was 13.5 million tons (grain
equivalent) in 2006 and is projected to increase slightly to 14
million tons by 2016. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 85 percent of
this gap, while the low-income countries of Asia account for only
14 percent and the low-income countries of Latin America and the
Caribbean for the remaining 1 percent. The distribution gap, an
indicator of food access (as it takes into account unequal
purchasing power within countries), is estimated at about 27
million tons for 2006, decreasing slightly to 26 million tons by
ERS has estimated that there were 849 million undernourished
people in 70 low-income developing countries in 2006. Asia was home
to 47 percent of this number, and this share is projected to
decline to 37 percent by 2016 due to improvements expected in
India. Given the region's comparatively low import dependency (4
percent of total grain availability), the current increase in food
prices does not immediately threaten these countries' ability to
pay for commercial imports. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most
food-insecure region. The region accounted for 44 percent of the
total number of hungry people, but it accounted for only 24 percent
of the population of the study countries. While Asia had a higher
absolute number of hungry people, it is far less vulnerable than
SSA. Asia accounted for 47 percent of the total number of hungry
people, but it accounted for a far larger share of the total
population-66 percent. Also, unlike Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa shows
no signs of improvement-on average-in food security and poverty
levels. In fact, by 2016, the region will have more hungry people,
460 million, than Asia, at 300 million, does. In 2016, more than
half of the region's population is projected to consume below the
An estimated 44 percent of the population in Latin America and
the Caribbean consumed below the nutritional requirement in 2006.
This share is expected to drop to 26 percent by 2016 because per
capita consumption in the region is projected to rise nearly 16
percent between 2006 and 2016.
How Was the Project Conducted?
All historical and projected data are updated relative to the
2005 Food Security Assessment report. Food production estimates for
2006 are preliminary, based on USDA data as of October 2006, with
supplemental data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations and the World Food Program. Financial and
macroeconomic data are based on the latest World Bank data.
Projected macroeconomic variables are either extrapolated based on
calculated growth rates for the 1990s and early 2000s or are World
Bank projections/estimations. Projections/ estimates of food
availability include food aid, with the assumption that each
country will receive the 2003-05 average level of food aid
throughout the next decade.