ISLAMABAD, Oct 20: Roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year, according to results of a study commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The study reveals that food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain, from initial agricultural production down to final household consumption.
In medium- and high-income countries food is to a significant extent wasted at the consumption stage, meaning that it is discarded even if it is still suitable for human consumption.
Significant losses also occur early in the food supply chains in the industrialised regions. In low-income countries food is lost mostly during the early and middle stages of the food supply chain; much less food is wasted at the consumer level, it says.
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 different climatic conditions, infrastructure, packaging and marketing systems; in medium and high-income countries, the causes of food waste mainly relate to consumer behaviour and lack of coordination between actors in the supply chain.
The study says that food losses in industrial countries are as high as in developing countries, but in developing countries more than 40 per cent of the food losses occur at post-harvest levels, while in industrialised countries, more than 40 per cent of the food losses occur at retail and consumer levels. Food waste at consumer level in industrialised countries which amounts to 222 million tons, is almost as high as total net food production in sub Saharan Africa, stands at 230 million tons.
Per capita food wasted by consumers in Europe and North Africa is 95kg to 115kg a year, while this figure in Sub-Saharan Africa and South/ Southeast Asia is 6kg to 11 kg per year.
The study emphasised the need that food supply chains in developing countries should be strengthened by encouraging small farmers to organise and to diversify and upscale their production and marketing.
Investments in infrastructure, transportation, food industries and packaging industries are also required. Both the public and private sectors have a role to play in achieving this, the report stresses.
Food security is a major concern in large parts of the developing world. Food production must clearly increase significantly to meet the future demands of an increasing and more affluent world population.
In a world with limited natural resources – land, water, energy, fertiliser – and where cost-effective solutions are to be found to produce enough safe and nutritious food for all, reducing food losses should not be a forgotten priority, it concludes.