Australia has come in fourteenth place in The Economist Intelligence Unit's (The EIU) annual Food Sustainability Index, dragged down by agricultural sustainability and diversity.
The Food Sustainability Index (FSI), which ranks 34 countries according to their food system sustainability, was led by France for the second year running, followed by Japan, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, South Korea and Hungary, with the UK sitting in tenth place.
These countries typically demonstrated strong and effectively implemented government policy on food waste and loss, environmental conservation in agricultural practices, innovations in agriculture, and nutrition education, according to the findings.
The authors noted that richer countries tended to perform well in the FSI, although high-income UAE ranked last, while the FSI's lowest-income country Ethiopia ranked a respectable 12th – ahead of Australia and the US, which ranked 21st due to low scores for sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges.
Australia received a high score for food loss and waste due to high scores for both the food loss and end-user waste categories, but scored only moderately for sustainable agriculture, with a high score for the water resources category counteracted by a weaker performance across the land use (particularly on agricultural diversification) and air categories.
“Australia’s score for nutritional challenges was also middling, as low and middling scores in the dietary patterns and life expectancy categories, respectively, mitigated a strong showing in the life quality category,” according to the FSI.
The rankings are based on the performance across three pillars: sustainable agriculture; nutritional challenges; and food loss and waste.
The FSI was developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN) as part of a research programme commissioned by BCFN.
Martin Koehring, managing editor at The Economist Intelligence Unit, said: “Sustainable food systems are vital in achieving the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals. notably ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture by 2030.
“However, major global developments such as climate change, rapid urbanisation, tourism, migration flows and the shift towards Westernised diets put food systems under pressure. The Food Sustainability Index is an important tool to help policymakers and other relevant stakeholders to design effective policies to improve food system sustainability.”