More than eight in 10 countries have improved their food security over the past year but that poorer countries still lag behind, according to a report.
The latest Global Food Security Index (GFSI), by the Economist Intelligence Unit, measures the food security of 113 countries by evaluating access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food.
The United States, Ireland and Singapore make up the top three on the GFSI in first, second and third place respectively.
The bottom five on the index all come from Africa, with Chad in 111th place, Sierra Leone 112th and Burundi 113th.
Countries with a lack of basic infrastructure and a population on low average incomes are unable to deal with challenges that risk food security such as climate change, population growth and potential spikes in food prices.
“Governments will need to invest in the development and implementation of new technologies to make countries more resilient to changing weather patterns and narrow the gap between low-income and middle-income countries,” the report concluded.
“Sustained investment, especially by the private sector, is critical if countries are to develop the infrastructure capacity necessary to produce and transport sufficient quantities of food in the future.”
Political instability is another major factor that exacerbates food insecurity, with functional democracies notably absent from the bottom of the GFSI rankings.
War-torn Yemen saw the biggest decline in food security since 2015.
While a recent coup d’état in Côte d’Ivoire, in addition to a drought that has hit cocoa production and strongly increased production volatility, resulted in the second biggest decline on the index.
For the first time since the launch of the GFSI in 2012, Europe experienced an improvement in its food security, however there is a fear that refugees fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria and Yemen could strain food safety nets on the continent.
Other key findings:
1) Thirty-five of the GFSI's 40 most food-secure countries in 2016 are coastal countries.
The report said the volume of international trade of a landlocked developing country is, on average, just 60% of the trade volume of a comparable coastal country and that the lack of coastal access increases transport costs.
2) Developing economies that prioritise investment in agricultural storage and transport infrastructure increase their capacity to ensure food security for burgeoning populations.
Sub-Saharan Africa lags behind other regions in agricultural infrastructure: although storage capacity across the region has improved, road and port infrastructure is poor. Governments have committed themselves to improving ports, roads and railways, but financing capacity remains an obstacle. Private investment and public-private partnerships are areas of opportunity that could be leveraged to overcome this obstacle.
3) Between 2015 and 2016, more countries experienced declines in their scores for national nutritional standards than improvements.
National nutritional standards – including national nutrition plans, national dietary guidelines and national nutritional monitoring – are critical in ensuring that both government and the private sector direct their focus towards improving food quality, safety and nutrition.
Thirty-six countries in the GFSI still do not have national dietary guidelines that encourage populations to adopt a balanced, nutritious diet.
Middle Eastern countries like the UAE and Bahrain had nutritional plans or strategies that expired in 2015 and are yet to update their lapsed plans.
Top five countries for food security by region:
South Africa is the highest ranked African country in 47th place overall, followed by Tunisia (53), Botswana (54), Egypt (57) and Morocco (62).
Singapore is the highest ranked country in Asia (3rd place overall), followed by Japan (22), South Korea (28), Malaysia (35) and China (42).
Chile is the highest ranked country in South America (24th place overall) followed by Uruguay (36), Argentina (37), Brazil (41) and Colombia (49).
Costa Rica is the highest ranked Central American country (37th place overall), followed by Mexico (39), Panama (44), El Salvador (69) and Guatemala (73).
US in 1st place and Canada 8th.
The highest ranked European country is Ireland (2nd place overall), followed by the Netherlands (4), France and Germany (joint 6) and the UK (8).
Qatar is the highest ranked Middle Eastern country (20 overall), followed by Oman in (26), Kuwait (27), the UAE (30) and Saudi Arabia (32).
Australia (4 overall) and New Zealand (11).
Two Caribbean countries were included in the index with the Dominican Republic in (64), and Haiti (108)