Afghanistan’s Food Supply Is World’s Least Secure

Afghanistan’s Food Supply is Least Secure
A girl carries a plate of bread for Iftar, the evening meal during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photographer: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

Afghanistan has the world’s least-secure food supplies because poverty and conflict hamper distribution in the Asian nation, the U.K. risk assessment company Maplecroft said today.

The nation where 142,000 U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops are battling the Taliban topped a list of 163 nations published today in Maplecroft’s Food Security Risk Index. The next 11 countries are all in Africa.

“The ongoing conflict in Afghanistan impacts infrastructure readiness, and the capability for distribution of supplies is greatly reduced,” Fiona Place, environmental analyst at Bath, England-based Maplecroft, said in a phone interview. “It’s the impact on the road networks and the telecommunications infrastructure.”

The poorest nations and those with conflicts are those with the greatest difficulties in ensuring their population has access to sufficient food, Maplecroft said. Future supplies are “very uncertain” due to extreme weather that has hit major cereal producers including Russia, Canada and Ukraine, Maplecroft Chief Executive Officer Alyson Warhurst said.

Russia’s worst drought in half a century prompted the country on Aug. 5 to ban grain exports, sending wheat prices to a 23-month high. Production in Canada has been hit by flooding, while extreme temperatures in Ukraine and Kazakhstan have also lowered cereal output, according to Maplecroft.

Private Security Ban

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s order for private security companies to halt their operations in the Asian nation may further hamper the distribution of aid, Oliver Westmacott, president of the security provider GardaWorld, said today in a telephone interview from the Afghan capital Kabul.

“There is a very clear need for private security services for development effort in Afghanistan,” Westmacott said. “Without that support, aid will evaporate.”

Karzai’s office said yesterday in a statement that the security companies must halt operations within four months. Almost 17,000 armed guards protect bases, convoys and personnel of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, a U.S. Defense Department report said in May. Others protect offices and residences for foreign embassies, companies and aid groups.

Maplecroft produced its ranking using data from 12 indicators, including cereal production, food aid, economic output per capita and inflation.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia, Angola, Liberia, Chad and Zimbabwe complete the top-10 list of nations with the least secure food supply. All were deemed to have an “extreme” food risk.

The north European nations of Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway rank as the countries with the most secure food supply. Canada has the fifth most-secure supply, and the U.S. came sixth. Those nations had a “low” risk. Some European nations, including Italy, Greece and Portugal, had a medium risk.

Those nations “don’t produce enough of their own food supply, so they’re dependent on importing,” Warhurst said. “Basically they’re going to have to pay more for their imports.”

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