Impact of Food Losses and Waste on Food Security
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In the world of rising population and concerns about inequality and growing food insecurity where about 870 million people still suffer from chronic undernourishment, food waste and loss (FLW) is one of the greatest challenges of our times.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that about one-third of the edible food produced is lost or wasted each year, i.e. about 1.3 billion tons, with an economic cost estimated at about US$750 billion (excluding fish and Seafood). In addition, the environmental impact of FLW in terms of volume and cost is tremendous and represents a huge cost to the society, in terms of greenhouse gas emission, water footprint, wastage of agricultural land and biodiversity loss.
FLW occur at all stages of the Food Supply Chain (FSC) starting with the initial level of agricultural production to the consumption by people. Some causes of FLW are structural and related to infrastructure, such as shortage of cold chains, processing facilities and efficient market infrastructure as well as shortcomings in the management and implementation of best practices at different stages of the FSC. Other causes are systematic and also related to policies and regulations that are mostly driven by improper functioning systems and non-supportive policies and regulations.
The extent of the FLW is different for different commodities and also different between developing and developed countries. The FLW in developing countries mostly occur at the post-harvest level, while in developed countries, it’s mostly at the retail and consumer level, mainly related to consumer behavior.
Among the major food commodities, cereals represent the largest share of FLW and comprise 53% of the total FLW. Meat represents only about 7%. However, when the impact on the environment and the economic cost are considered, reducing the meat loss and waste that has a large environmental impact, should receive as much attention as other major commodities despite its relatively small share of FLW.
Approaches/solutions to reduce the global FLW through the FSC are discussed, both at the post-harvest, handling, storage and processing levels (close to the farm) and at the retail and consumption level (close to the fork). Many of these problems and solutions are similar to those faced by countries in the MENA region. The regional strategic framework that was developed by FAO in 2014 for the reduction of FLW in the MENA region to achieve the region’s goal for the reduction of FLW by 50% in 2024 is highlighted and discussed. Actions on moving forward and the need to establish/develop the necessary pre-requisites that can catalyze the successful implementation to reduce the FLW in the MENA member countries are recommended.
KeywordsAgricultural waste Food security Food supply chain
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