What a Waste

About one third of all food produced today—some 1.7 billion tonnes—is lost or wasted along the value chain.

In developing countries, this occurs mainly in the postharvest phase due to lack of adequate infrastructure. In developed countries, wastage occurs mainly at the retail and consumption levels due to constraining regulations and unsustainable consumption patterns. (Gustavsson et al.2011)

These staggering stats were given at the CFS44 side event, “Full-cost accounting for sustainable food and nutrition security”. Aside from the immense quantities of food this represents, can you image how much money is wasted?

Considering high food prices, we often think of the high production costs or distribution costs, while we often ignore the cost of food waste. Food waste losses are not only losses of the initial investment (seed, water, fertilizer etc) in the production, but also include a cost in disposing of that wasted food. On top of this, food waste also has a significant environmental impact: Natural resources such as water, forest, land and fuel are used in both the production and disposal of food that is not consumed. Some of these processes emit greenhouse gases during both pre- and post-production of food.

We must continue to work on sustainable food production systems aimed at improving food and nutrition security. A big part of making food production sustainable is reducing the amount of waste. Already in 1974, FAO at a World Food Conference called attention to the link between reduction of post-harvest losses and food security.

Full cost accounting is part of the solution to this problem, or at least makes it visible. Cost accounting reveals the true societal cost of food wastage and makes its mitigation clear. It allows for the understanding of the benefits of food wastage mitigation.

Remember at the beginning of my blog I asked you how much you think food waste costs? Well, food produced that is not consumed has an annual bulk-trade value of USD 936 billion globally. Yup that’s billion!

There are solutions to this growing problem. Mitigation methods are sometimes quite simple.

Here is a specific example of milk losses in East Africa:  6% of total production is lost at production level and 11% is lost at post-harvest level. That makes 627 000 tonnes and 1 232 000 tonnes of milk respectively. (Report) In a pilot project, it was shown that storing milk in 1000-liter coolers, the farmers saved 150 liters of milk per day, per cooler.

To learn more about the mitigation of societal costs and benefits and the food wastage footprint just click here.


This blogpost covers the CFS44 side event “Full-cost accounting for sustainable food and nutrition security”

Blogpost by  Audra Francis, #CFS44 Social Reporter – theaudraleah(at)gmail.com
Photo Credit: Pete on Flickr

This post is part of the live coverage during the 44th Session of the Committee on World Food Security, a social media project supported by GFAR. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

12/10/2017 21:28


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