21 October 2013
Global Green Growth Forum (3GF)
“Reducing Food Loss and Waste” Panel
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to participate in the Global Green Growth Forum and in this panel on food losses and waste.
FAO estimates that each year, one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted - around 1.3 billion tons. This costs around 750 billion dollars annually.
If we reduce food loss and waste to zero would give us additional food to feed 2 billion people.
You will tell me that it is impossible to cut food loss and waste to zero. It does not matter.
We need to be ambitious, we need to set bold goals. It pushes us forward. It unites us behind a cause.
That is why zeroing food loss and waste is one of the elements of the Zero Hunger Challenge launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Rio+20 Conference last year.
Because of all this, FAO has a huge vested interest in bringing about rapid reductions in food losses and waste.
This issue is an important part of our new set of priorities, specifically in relation to improving the efficiency and inclusiveness of our food systems.
And that is why we are here today. FAO is interested in being part of the discussion and of the solution to the food loss and waste problem.
But this is not an issue that can be effectively tackled individually by only one organization.
We need to work together. One of my priorities in FAO is opening our doors to potential allies. Fighting food loss and waste is clearly one area in which partnership is needed.
A very successful partnership that has been present for a few years is the Save Food Initiative, initially launched by FAO, UNEP and Messe Dusseldorf and that now has more than 150 public organization and private sector partners.
Among its activities, the Save Food Initiative is conducting case studies on food losses in specific chains. This will help us give guidance on strategies to upgrade the sectors concerned.
There are a number of interesting ideas being discussed inside and outside of FAO on which there is space for collaboration.
Developing a global protocol for food loss and waste is one of them. It can help provide clear measurements and indicators on which we can base guidance on how to reduce food loss and waste.
There are clear synergies between the protocol and efforts we are making to quantify losses occurring in food supply chains.
Within our Global Strategy for Improving Rural and Agricultural Statistics, we are developing assessment methodologies for obtaining post-harvest loss data that feeds into national statistics. We are also beginning work on a food loss index.
One of the roles that FAO can play is to facilitate the sharing of information in order to foster development of common methodologies and approaches.
And with regards to food waste, it is also important to take into consideration that different cultures have different culinary traditions. We must take this into consideration.
Any measurement we do, or policies we recommend needs to factor in and respect these differences.
Food loss and waste has two very clearly defined sides.
Food loss takes place in post-production, harvesting, transportation and storage. Most of the times it is related to inadequate infrastructure and is mainly a problem in developing countries.
We already know a lot about how to cut food losses. But we need to invest more in a number of areas, especially in infrastructure such as roads and cold chains, but also improving market information.
We also need to close the gap between the knowledge we have and what farmers and other actors in the food chain are actually doing. When we do that, we see good results.
In Afghanistan, for example, farmers saw their post-harvest losses fall from 20 percent to less than 1 or 2 percent thanks to FAO providing appropriate local storage facilities.
Differently from food loss, food waste happens at the consumer end. And it is a bigger problem in the industrialized world.
Per capita consumer waste is around 100 kilograms in Europe and North America per year. In Africa, it is less than 10 kilograms a year per person.
Cutting waste still requires a lot of innovative thinking. How do we stop perfectly edible and safe food from being thrown away by retailers and individual households?
We can do a lot from the local to the global levels, from producers to consumers, from personal choices to policy decisions that create an enabling environment to reduce food waste and loss.
Here are some very concrete action from my personal experience, from the Think Eat Save Campaign, of which FAO is a proud partner, and from the toolkit and report on food wastage footprint and how to reduce it that the UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner and I launched recently:
Invest in nutrition education and consumer awareness,
Strengthen shorter food circuits, so consumption takes place close to where the food is produced,
Support the creation of food banks,
Lower prices to give incentive for consumers to buy food that is damaged or close to the expiry date but are still perfectly safe, tasty and nutritious,
Set up soup making factories using blemished but otherwise safe fresh vegetables to produce nutritional canned and fresh soups for distribution to schools and community kitchens.
Offer reduced portions in restaurants and supermarkets, and
Help shift from fixed-price all-you-can-eat menus to pay-for-what-you-eat options. Less is more!
Ladies and gentlemen,
Producers, consumers, retailers, governments and international organizations and many others are working together to reduce food loss and waste.
There are many challenges, but there is also our commitment to overcome them.
One thing is certain: we cannot relax in our efforts to implement food loss and waste solutions.