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New Agriculturist: News brief - Half of all food produced is wasted
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Half of all food produced is wasted

30-50% of all food produced globally never gets eaten (© IRRI)
30-50% of all food produced globally never gets eaten

Market and consumer wastage and poor practices in harvesting, storing and transportation mean that 30-50 per cent (or 1.2-2 billion tonnes) of all food produced globally never gets eaten, a report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has revealed. Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not also emphasises that this figure does not include the waste of large amounts of land, energy, fertilisers and water which have been used to produce food that ends up uneaten. "This level of wastage is a tragedy that cannot continue if we are to succeed in the challenge of sustainably meeting our future food demands," the report states.

The report states that in sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia, wastage tends to occur due to inefficient harvesting, inadequate local transportation and poor infrastructure. In South East Asian countries, for example, losses of rice can range from 37 to 80 per cent of total production, which amounts to total wastage in the region of 180 million tonnes annually. And in India, 21 million tonnes of wheat are wasted each year due to inadequate storage and distribution systems.

In developed countries, however, food is most often wasted because of the behaviour of retail outlets and customers. In the UK, for example, up to 30 per cent of the vegetable crop is never harvested because its size and appearance does not meet standards set by supermarkets. Consumers are also guilty of throwing away between 30 and 50 per cent of the food they buy.

"Rising population combined with improved nutrition standards and shifting dietary preferences will exert pressure for increases in global food supply," the report states. "The potential to provide 60-100% more food by simply eliminating losses, while simultaneously freeing up land, energy and water resources for other uses, is an opportunity that should not be ignored."

To begin tackling this problem, the Institution recommends that: FAO works with engineers to help governments of developed countries transfer engineering knowledge, design know-how and suitable technology to developing countries; governments in developing countries take waste into consideration when designing new transport and storage facilities; and governments in developed nations devise and implement policies that discourage retailers from wasteful practices and reduce losses in the home due to excessive purchasing by consumers.

Date published: January 2013


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Waste of such magnitude is no different from the economic me... (posted by: Ayub Chege)


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