The UK has been ranked 10th for sustainable food production and consumption in a list of the world’s key agricultural countries.

France topped the list, which is drawn up by The Economist magazine’s Intelligence Unit, and measures sustainable agriculture, nutrition and food waste to create a Food Sustainability Index (FSI).

In all, 34 countries, producing 85% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product, are assessed in the study, which was commissioned by food use think-tank the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation.

See also: UK must grow food more sustainably, says government plan

The top 10

  1. France
  2. Japan
  3. Germany
  4. Spain
  5. Sweden
  6. Portugal
  7. Italy
  8. South Korea
  9. Hungary
  10. UK

The most successful countries

France’s success was based on a combination of strong government policy on food waste, research, conservation and dietary nutrition.

The report said that France was particularly strong in the food loss and waste category.

“In a world where a third of all food produced globally is either lost or discarded, according to estimates from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, France has been in the vanguard of policies and measures to reduce such losses,” the report said.

Behind France were Japan in second place and Germany third.

Japan’s high score was based on its exemplary food nutrition, which means its population has very few mineral and vitamin deficiencies recorded.

Just 14.2% of its teenagers are overweight and the high life expectancy of 84 years also boosted its score. UK life expectancy is 81.6 years.

Within the overall score, the country with the most sustainable agricultural system was deemed to be Italy.

Italy was fourth overall but its water conservation and supply policies pushed up its score in sustainable agriculture.

The UK

Ranked 10th (see panel) the UK performed well in food loss and nutrition but the report ranked farming only 20th out of 34 countries for sustainable agriculture.

Although UK water use policy and agricultural diversity were relatively high scoring, air emissions from fertiliser and animal use put it at 30th place in the country rankings.

Britain’s FSI score for young farmer involvement was just 0/100 and the number of women in the industry 1/100, which also affected the overall score.

How did the UK do?


FSI (score out of 100)  

Rank (of 34 countries)

Overall score



Food loss & waste                         






End user waste                                  



Sustainable agriculture               






Land use/biodiversity                       



Air emissions                                    






 Life quality                                       



Life expectancy                                 






Further down the list, the USA came in 21st place, dragged down by poor performance in the sustainable agriculture category. For sustainable farming the USA came 31st because of a lack of diversity in production and poor water use. 

But bottom of the pile was the United Arab Emirates, which ranked 34th for both food waste and sustainable agriculture. The country’s water policy and land use diversity were ranked 33rd.