Ireland, for the first time, has topped the global ranking of how well countries can feed themselves, Bloomberg reports.
The data shows that Ireland is the most ‘food secure’ country in the world, knocking the US off the top of the world list as its food affordability, availability, quality and safety ranked highest in the world, thanks to its agricultural research.
The US is still the largest food exporter in the world, Bloomberg reports, but the annual Global Food Security Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which was released this week, shows that worldwide, food security fell for the first time in five years, largely because of increases in the number of refugees, weather disasters and a decline in global political stability.
Commissioned by Dupont this year saw added metrics based on climate and natural-resource risks. Adjusting for those factors, the US fell to fourth place, with Austria and France moving ahead.
“Food security is in reverse,” said Robert Powell, a senior consultant with the Economist Intelligence Unit in New York. “If we’re aiming for zero hunger, we’re going in the wrong direction.”
Figures from the United Nations last month show that the number of people suffering from hunger rose by about 38m to 815m in 2016.
The report says that climate change is seen as a driver of increasing weather volatility which is contributing to famines in developing nations.
Richer nations have fewer problems providing inexpensive, plentiful and safe food to their citizens. Still, risks remain, and some are increasing, according to the study.
European nations, meanwhile, may see strains caused by an aging population that pays less in taxes and demands more social services, it found.
The study places a high value on government support for agricultural research, which is important to keeping nutrition inexpensive and available as food needs increase, Powell said and this is where Ireland has excelled while the US has faltered, according to the report.
Bloomberg reports that Ireland has outspent the US in relative terms on public research and development on agriculture over the past five years, increasing farming’s share of gross domestic product even as its economy has grown, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development.
“Ireland has roared back marvelously from the banking crisis, and their agriculture research and development has increased,” Powell said. In the US, “we haven’t seen that level of public-sector investment.”
Q My wife and I have been farming since we got married almost 10 years ago. We have three young children and at present we are scraping by on the small income the farm is making. We are facing the reality that it is not practical for my wife to return to work off-farm as the childcare costs would wipe out any income she would make. I keep hearing about the economy improving but we are finding the reality is very different, waiting for the Basic Payment Scheme cheque to meet our debts and bills. What can we do?