Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu

Opening remarks by Dr. QU Dongyu, Director-General of FAO 

Soft Launch of the Technical Platform on Measurement and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste 

Virtual Event

29 July 2020 – 15:00

As prepared



Distinguished Guests!

Ladies and Gentlemen!

1. I am pleased to be with all of you today at the Soft Launch of the Technical Platform on Measurement and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste.

2. For the last 10 years, FAO has been raising global awareness on the issue of food loss and waste.

3. Let us be reminded of the wise words of Pope Francis, who said: "To throw food away means to throw people away"

4. Wasting food means wasting scarce natural resources, increasing climate change impacts and missing the opportunity to feed a growing population in the future.

5. First, is important to understand what is food loss and what is food waste. 

6. Food loss therefore concerns all stages of the food supply chain up to, but excluding, the point where there is interaction with the final consumer and thus excludes retail, food service providers and consumers. 

7. Food waste is the result of purchasing decisions by consumers, or decisions by retailers and food service providers that affect consumer behaviour.

8. To understand the magnitude of the food loss phenomenon, it is 14% of food produced which is edible and is not diverted to other uses (e.g. animal feed), the value of these losses is upwards of 400 billion USD.

9. In terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the food that is lost is associated with around 1.5 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent.

10. From a nutritional point of view, this is equivalent to more than 1,000 trillion milligrams of phosphorus and more than 350 trillion milligrams of magnesium.

11. Losses are higher in developing countries, for example in Sub-Saharan Africa they are 14% and in Southern Asia and Central Asia are 20.7%; while they are lower in developed countries, for example in Australia and New Zealand are 5.8%.

12. If we look by commodities, major losses are in roots tubers and oil-bearing crops (25%), fruits and vegetables (22%), meat and animal products (12%) and on cereals and pulses they are 9%.

13. But within commodity there is also a significance variance within regions. For example, rice losses at global level are 7% but 24% in Sub Saharan Africa, 22% in Latin American and Caribbean and 10% in Central and Southern Asia.

14. Food waste on the other hand has been very complex to measure and still there is not an official measurement of the SDG indicator for food waste by UNEP the UN agency custodian of this indicator. Although, previous estimation showed that waste is higher in developed than developing countries. A recent study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics in January of 2020 estimates that waste across all households in the US is around 32%, i.e. a value of US$ 240 billion.

15. The magnitude of the impacts in losses and waste is a strong call for action.

16. However, changing the current paradigm for tolerating food loss and waste is not at all simple and straightforward. Complex issues need to be addressed.

17. A one-size-fits-all approach cannot be applied - as what works in the context of one country, may not necessarily work in another one.

18. Knowledge sharing, culturally sensitive dialogue and technical exchange across countries, regions and continents are all required to inform and facilitate the adoption of best practices.

19. On losses, innovation is needed on technological solutions for post-harvest management involving both the private sector and governments. Options need to be tailored to specific contexts - the technologies have strengths and weaknesses and due to the existence of significant differences between households, agro-ecologies and crops, one-size-fits-all solutions are unlikely. Similarly, Implementation of policies that support quality-sensitive markets are needed to drive improved post-harvest management and loss reduction.

20. On waste, innovation is also needed on better food packaging, relaxing on regulations and standards on aesthetic requirements for fruit and vegetables, behavioral changes for better consumption habits, and government policies aimed at lowering food wastage like guidelines to redistributing safe surplus food to those in need through food banks within others.  

21. The Technical Platform on the Measurement and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste that we are launching today will play a pivotal role in this regard.

22. The Platform addresses a wide range of important topics including measurement, reduction policies, alliances and specially on actions.

23. We also included examples of successful models involving innovative technologies and approaches applied in different countries across the globe.

24. The Platform consolidates the work of FAO with that of a broad spectrum of development partners, notably IFPRI, the G20, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Rome-based Agencies; and is also linked to their respective web-based platforms.

25. It also serves as a gateway to other FAO platforms that address different dimensions of the food loss and waste problem.

26. The Platform also includes a Community of Practice on food loss and waste, which promotes and supports raising awareness.

27. Indeed, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have noted an increased readership of weekly news articles pertinent to food loss and waste linked to the pandemic – these have also been included on the platform.

28. The International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, approved in December 2019, by the UN General Assembly, is a call to action for the public and the private sector and for individuals, to promote, harness and scale-up innovation and technologies to reduce food loss and waste.

29. Making this a reality will require both technical and financial support.

30. The forthcoming inaugural celebration of this International Day on 29 September 2020, will seek to drum up the momentum for collective action and the Technical Platform will play an important role in this regard.

31. Although we mark the inaugural celebration of this International Day under challenging circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic, we invite everyone here to take advantage of this important opportunity to contribute to the action that is needed.

32. On 29 September, we will celebrate the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste for the first time ever.

33. I invite you all to spread the word and be part of this historic event.

34. Use this opportunity to inform, educate, and engage consumers, young people, producers and parliamentarians and to supply them with information on how important it is to reduce food loss and waste.

35. Join the campaign by sharing our materials on digital channels and share the actions you have taken to reduce food loss with the Platform.

36. Let us all make sure that the Platform we launch today becomes a vital tool that makes data become knowledge and knowledge that leads to action!

37. Working together, learning together and contributing together!

Thank you!