This indicator uses food balance sheet (FBS) data to measure annual fluctuations in the per capita food supply (kcal), represented as the standard deviation over the previous five years’ per capita food supply. Food supply variability results from a combination of instability and responses in production, trade, consumption and storage, in addition to changes in government policies such as trade restrictions, taxes and subsidies, stockholding and public distribution (Lele et al 2016).
Method of Construction
This indicator is part of the FAO Suite of Food Security Indicators and can be accessed on the FAOSTAT website by selecting “suite of food security indicators” under the “Data” tab. Users can produce this indicator for a given country and year (or span of years) by selecting “Per capita food supply variability (kcal/capita/day) under the “Items” section.
FAO calculates the national estimate of total food supply using data from a number of sources, including government agencies, marketing authorities, and industrial/manufacturing surveys, among others (FAO 2001). This national estimate is calculated as the sum of the elements of supply (production quantity, import quantity, and stock variation) minus the elements of utilization (export quantity, food manufacturing, feed, seed, waste, and other uses). Using food composition tables, FAO calculates the energy composition of the edible portion of each type of food available for human consumption and then these values are added to compute the total national food supply in energy (kcal). This value is then divided by the population size and by 365 days to get the per capita food supply (kcal/capita/day). Using this annual value, the FAO calculates the standard deviation of the per capita food supply over the previous five years, producing the per capita food supply variability indicator.
Volatility in the food supply, presumably reflected in price volatility, affects vulnerable households’ ability to make long-term adjustments to their resource constraints. Understanding the degree of instability or volatility within a food system can help researchers, project managers, and policy makers advocate for measures to be taken to improve the food system’s (and population’s) resiliency to shocks. This indicator is included in the FAO’s annual State of Food Insecurity in the World report.
Strengths and Weaknesses
One benefit of this indicator is its usefulness for observing trends in the stability of a food supply over time and its comparability across regions and countries. Depending on the data available, food supply variability could be calculated at a local, sub-national, national, or regional level.
However, this indicator does not measure the effect of changes in the food supply on individual or overall food prices or consumption. Nor does it measure the impact on households of bearing the risk of shocks due to instability in the food supply or of the shocks themselves. Furthermore, since this indicator reflects annual data, it cannot be used to assess the results of short-term shocks to the food system in a country, and is therefore more valuable for assessing long term trends (Lele et al 2016).
Food Balance Sheet (FBS) annual data are used to calculate the mean kcal/capita available nationally.
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