Food Wastage vs Food Security

Dr Mandeep Singh Azad,         Dr Manmeet
Global food production must increase by 60 percent by 2050 in order to meet the demands of the growing world population. Yet, more than one third of the food produced today is lost or wasted. Food loss refers to the decrease in edible food mass at the production, post-harvest and processing stages of the food chain, mostly in developing countries. Food waste refers to the discard of edible foods at the retail and consumer levels, mostly in developed countries. This food wastage represents a missed opportunity to improve food security and comes at a steep environmental price. With the world’s population projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, and with most of this growth taking place in the developing world, the challenge for Governments around the world is, how do we produce enough food for everyone?. The answer, according to the United Nations, is not to produce more food, but to stop wasting so much of what we already have.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that, each year, one-third of all food produced for human consumption in the world (around 1.3 billion tons) is lost or wasted. This includes 45 percent of all fruit and vegetables, 35 percent of fish and seafood, 30 percent of cereals, 20 percent of dairy products and 20 percent of meat. Not surprisingly,  most of this wastage occurs in the developed world; per capita food waste by consumers (not including the production process) in Europe and North America is around 95-115 kg per year, compared to just 6-11kg in sub-Saharan Africa and South/South-East Asia. Large amounts of food are still lost during the production process in developing countries, however, due to lack of infrastructure and poor equipment. Wastage at the consumption stage in these countries, meanwhile, is drastically less than developed nations. It is estimated that saving one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world, of which the highest number (about 194.6 million) are in India. Maximum food loss happens during transit from farm to fork, especially to urban markets. These losses not only impact producers with reduced income and consumers with increased costs, but also challenge overall food security. Food loss and waste also has a significant impact on the environment. The carbon footprint of wasted food is estimated at 3.3 gigatonnes. In fact, if food waste were a country, it would rank behind only the US and China for greenhouse gas emissions. The production of wasted food also uses around 1.4 billion hectares of land – 28 percent of the world’s agricultural area. A huge amount of surface or groundwater – known as “blue water” – is also lost; about 250km3
The issue of food losses is of high importance in the efforts to combat hunger, raise income and improve food security in the world’s poorest countries. Food losses have an impact on food security for poor people, on food quality and safety, on economic development and on the environment. The exact causes of food losses vary throughout the world and are very much dependent on the specific conditions and local situation in a given country. In broad terms, food losses will be influenced by crop production choices and patterns, internal infrastructure and capacity, marketing chains and channels for distribution, and consumer purchasing and food use practices. Irrespective of the level of economic development and maturity of systems in a country, food losses should be kept to a minimum.  The causes of food losses and waste in low-income countries are mainly connected to financial, managerial and technical limitations in harvesting techniques, storage and cooling facilities in difficult climatic conditions, infrastructure, packaging and marketing systems. Given that many smallholder farmers in developing countries live on the margins of food insecurity, a reduction in food losses could have an immediate and significant impact on their livelihoods. The causes of food losses and waste in medium/high-income countries mainly relate to consumer behaviour as well as to a lack of coordination between different actors in the supply chain. Food can be wasted due to quality standards, which reject food items not perfect in shape or appearance. At the consumer level, insufficient purchase planning and expiring ‘best-before-dates’ also cause large amounts of waste, in combination with the careless attitude of those consumers who can afford to waste food.
Agriculture, along with its allied sectors, is the largest source of livelihood in India. About 82 per cent of the country’s farmers are small and marginal, having holdings less than one hectare. Over the years, irrigation potential has increased largely due to increased access to precious groundwater. However, 60 per cent of our agricultural land is still primarily rain-fed.A challenge for the Indian agricultural sector today is to feed its ever-growing population, even though India’s food grain production has kept steady pace with its population. Total food grain production during 2015-16 was about 252.23 million tonnes, five times higher compared to 50 million tonnes in 1950-51.A study estimated that an annual value of harvest and post-harvest losses of major agricultural produces at the national level was to the order of Rs 92,651 crore, calculated using production data of 2012-13 at 2014 wholesale prices. This also  indicated a need for capacity building at different levels of value chain actors for controlling food loss. It also called for investment in large storage facilities and other related infrastructure such as roads and electricity to ensure reduction in food loss and waste.
This can eventually lead to enhanced food security in the country as well as globally. Harvested bananas that fall off a truck, for instance, are considered food loss. Food that is fit for human consumption, but is not consumed because it is or left to spoil or discarded by retailers or consumers is called food waste. This may be because of rigid or misunderstood date marking rules, improper storage, buying or cooking practices. A carton of brown-spotted bananas thrown away by a shop, for instance, is considered food waste.
So in present scenario prevention of food wasteage /loss is as bigger a concern as food security or we can say that prevention of food wasteage can lead to food security.


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