United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in its shocking report titled ‘Avoiding Future Famines,’ revealed one-third of food produced globally is wasted and fails to reach the consumers’ plate. The amount of wastage exceeds 1.3 billion tonnes every year, the damning report added.
A similar report was also released by the UN Food Agency last year which warned of harmful impact on poor people due to food wastage and shortages. The UNEP report was released during Rio+20 summit on sustainable development.
Based on the study of last year’s group researchers – Swedish Institute of Food & Biotechnology and Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) – the report said that the food is either lost during food supply chain or on the dining table.
According to the report, consumers throw away about 222 millions of food in consumption condition in countries like North America and Europe. Meanwhile, the total food production of Sub-Saharan Africa is 230 millions tonnes per year.
On one hand, poor countries and developing countries are crying out for food shortage and demanding for more food production whereas on the other hand, food is being wasted stubbornly, ignoring the grim impact on the world.
Industrialised and developing countries waste roughly 670 millions of tonnes of food every year.
Whereas in medium and high income countries, a big chunk of food is wasted ignorantly, meaning even if the food is in consumable condition, it is still condemned to bins.
Global food wastage details
A average European and North American consumer wastes 95kg-115kg food every year. Similarly, a South Asian or South-East Asian consumer wastes 6kg-11kg of food.
American consumers blindly throw away 25% of food they purchase, while British people throw one-third of their purchased food. The main reason stated behind this waste is expiry of food and purchasing more than needed.
Similar case is with India, where huge percentage of food is being wasted, especially during festive occasions and events. In big fat Indian weddings itself, one-fifth of the food served is discarded while thousands of people sleep hungry on the streets.
A research conducted by Jenny Gustavsson of SIK explained aggregate wastage figure is made up of loss or wastage at different stages: farming, post harvesting, distribution and consumption. In developing countries, 40% of food losses occur during post harvesting and processing levels, while in industrialised countries more than 40% of food loss occurs at retail and consumer level.
The food supply chain, especially in developing countries is in the worst condition as tonnes of food grains are in rotten conditions which are later thrown away. Even the end consumer leaves no stone unturned to waste the food despite being for consumption.
The substantial increase in population will, however, increase the food demand. By 2050, the population growth is expected to increase by 3 billion and so is the food demand globally.
Measures to curb food wastage
With huge amount of food being wasted, UNEP has come out with some suggestions that can address the global food waste issue. The report suggests that strengthening food supply chain in developing countries would eventually encourage farmers to organise and diversify their production and marketing.
Apart from this, major investment in infrastructure, transportation and packaging is also needed to revamp the food supply. Good communication and cooperation between farmers would reduce the over production of crop and avoid shortages.
The report stressed the need for both private and public sectors to join hands and improve food storage capacity. Poor storage capacity causes post-harvest food losses in developing and poor countries. Moreover, food chain operators need to have knowledge on how to produce safe food and supply it in better forms.
Bulk food producers in developing countries like India, need to pool resources and share centralised and better transportation facilities in order to safely reach their produce to the end consumer.
Sources: The Times of India, dawn.com, Fao.org