This indicator is a national-level estimate of the availability of fruits and vegetables and is a measure of the nutritional quality of the food supply. Low fruit and vegetable consumption is one of the leading contributors to the global burden of non-communicable disease and death (Lim et al. 2013). A 2003 FAO/WHO joint report recommends a minimum individual intake of 400g (or the equivalent of 5 servings) of fruit and vegetables per day (excluding potatoes and other starchy tubers) for the prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity, as well as for the prevention and alleviation of several micronutrient deficiencies (Ezzati et al. 2004). This indicator does not yield information on the affordability, access, or consumption of fruits and vegetables by different population groups within a given country, but it can be useful for determining whether a country’s food supply contains enough fruits and vegetables to meet aggregate population needs. This indicator uses food balance sheet (FBS) data that can be accessed through FAO’s FAOSTAT website. Additional indicators of dietary quality that use FBS data and are covered in this Guiding Framework include national average supply of protein and national energy available from non-staples, among others.
Method of Construction
This indicator can be calculated using FBS data, which can be found on the FAOSTAT website by selecting the “Food Balance Sheets” option under the “Data” tab. FAO calculates the national estimate of total food availability 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).
FBS data can be used to construct this indicator for a given country and year (or range of years) by selecting “Food supply quantity (kg/capita/year)” under the “Elements” heading, and then "Vegetables + (Total)" and "Fruits – Excluding Wine + (Total)” under the “Items Aggregated” heading on the Food Balance Sheets page of FAOSTAT. The total value for fruits and vegetables must then be multiplied by 1000 (to get grams from kilograms) and divided by 365 days (to get days from year).
This indicator is used to gain an overview of the food availability and food quality available in a country. When data from individual or household surveys are unavailable, this indicator serves as a proxy for fruit and vegetable consumption at the population level (FAO 2016). Because the data are available annually for nearly all countries, this is a useful indicator for cross-country comparisons of food consumption, as well as for analysis of trends over time within a country. This indicator can help determine whether the availability of fruits and vegetables is enough to meet population needs, and can be useful for decision makers at the national level to inform policy action in order to increase fruit and vegetable availability through production or imports (Siegel et al. 2014).
Strengths and Weaknesses
One benefit of this indicator is that it can be calculated for nearly all countries (since it relies on FBS data) and can be compared across time and space. Another strength of this indicator is that it is simple to interpret and lacks sampling and reporting biases associated with dietary recall data (Lele et al 2016). However, a downside of this indicator is that it does not reflect actual consumption of fruits and vegetables, but rather the availability of these foods. In addition, as a national-level estimate it cannot be disaggregated by sex, age, or by any geographic scale smaller than the national level, nor can it detect disparities in consumption of fruits and vegetables across population groups or between seasons, as is possible with individual-level dietary data. This can be a problem in countries with extreme economic inequality, where high levels of availability in a handful of locations may mask the scarcity in other areas. In addition, although the FBS accounts for food losses incurred at the distribution and processing level, it does not account for plate waste at the household or individual level (Lele et al 2016).
National level FBS data should be used to calculate per capita fruit and vegetable availability. See similar household and individual level indicators: Fresh food retail volume and Household adequacy of fruit and vegetable consumption.
There are no links to validation studies to show for this indicator.