The FAO considers Dietary Energy Supply (DES) to be a good indicator of food availability. DES reflects the food available for human consumption, expressed in kilocalories (kcal) per person per day. At the country level, DES is calculated as the food remaining for human use after the deduction of all non-food consumption such as exports, animal feed, industrial use, seed and wastage.

Global DES increased almost linearly over recent decades, although there are considerable regional differences. In Sub Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa), the DES is substantially lower than the global average. Although the DES in Sub Sahara Africa increased over the last decade, this is not the case for regions with more than 35 percent undernourished people. Thus, while the overall  food availability in this region tends to improve,  the situation worsens in the most vulnerable areas. DES only reflects energy, and does not take other aspects of nutrition into account.

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According to the FAO, almost two billion people suffer from some form of malnutrition. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies in children lead to stunted growth, blindness and compromised mental development, with iron-deficiency anaemia contributing to 20 percent of maternal deaths in Africa and Asia. Hungry, unhealthy people cannot  be productive workers either, creating a vicious cycle  of hunger and poverty.

In contrast, overconsumption may also lead to problems. High energy intake and unbalanced diets may lead to chronic problems such  as obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Again, it proves that nutrition security is far more complex than the production of food alone. It also concerns access to food, and the consumption of food that is safe and nutritious.

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