Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems - E-consultation to set the track of the study

03.04.2013 - 30.04.2013

The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in its thirty-ninth Session (October 2012) requested the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE), to undertake a study on ‘Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems’ to be presented to the Plenary in 2014. This report has to be policy oriented, practical and operational.

As part of its report elaboration process, the HLPE is launching an e-consultation to seek views, public feedback and comments, on the pertinence and interconnections of some key questions that the report proposes to address, in line with the request from the CFS, and that could form the building blocks of the report. References of global and national studies and data on the subject, especially on food waste, are also welcome.

The feedback received will be used by the HLPE Steering Committee to finalize the terms of reference of the study and the HLPE Project Team that will be appointed to prepare the study and policy recommendations.

To download the proposed scope, please click here.
If you wish to contribute, send an email or use the form below.

The consultation is open until 30th April 2013.


In parallel, the HLPE is calling experts interested in participating or in leading the Project Team for this report. Information on this call is available on the HLPE website. The HLPE Steering Committee will appoint the Project Team after review of candidatures.

The HLPE Steering Committee

Federica Marra Leiden University, Netherlands

Dear HLPE Steering Committee, Project Team and all,

It is a pleasure to be able to participate to the discussion with my contribution, which I hope can be of help.

I am currently in the process of writing my Masters dissertation on how food waste has been addressed in Japan, that, although is not among the countries on which international attention has been conventionally drawn upon, could offer some useful insights as far as context-related analyses are concerned.

Food waste in Japan is entering the public scenario only in the last few years, but this is happening in a context in which it gained specific legal attention with the Food Recycling Law in 2001 within a general discourse on garbage. That law, among the successful results of environmental policies, allowed the food industry to shift from 45% of commercial and industrial food waste recycled in 2002 to 82% in 2010 (with a prevalent conversion into feed for animals). Apart from the environmental footprint, one of the underlying concerns for its enactment was Japan’s food security, given that the nation’s self sufficiency rate has long been the lowest among industrialized countries (less than 40% on a calorie basis). This shed light on its high dependence on imports and future fluctuations of the global food availability and prices. Therefore, better resource efficiency (with a sharp progress in technology for recycling) and food availability (concerns about the nation’s future supplies) were the environmental and economic dimensions that shaped Japan’s first approach to the problem, with an initial enlarged perspective to food-related waste that gained relevant commitment of the academia and the institutions.

Except for the food banking activity (essentially starting in 2000), the national questioning to the intrinsic structure of the food line started in 2012, with a collaboration between the food industry and the ministries discussing common commercial practices that most easily result in food waste in terms of returned or early discarded food (e.g. the “1/3 rule”, mandating the delivery of a food product to the retailer to be made within the first one third of its shelf life, and the sales period to be limited to the first two-thirds of the shelf-life; arbitrary best-before dates that in some cases are shorter than abroad). These practices, not regulated by any law, emerged as a result of marketing strategies aiming at being "the most effective" for the Japanese consumer.

What indeed seems to be one of the most important and complicated issues to address currently, which had not been reflected in what we could refer to as the economical modernization of the country up to now, is the national consumer culture. This is regarded as one of the most attached to high food quality and standards, drawing high attention to freshness, appearance, labelling and to food nutritional value. It results in a general low-self-responsibility attitude and a high propensity to avoid risk. Although consumer behaviour has been included in national food and nutritional education and domestic sciences, reference to food waste have not been directly included in the nation’s practical political agenda until last year (despite some local governments’ individual initiatives). Moreover, there is very little study connection between waste-related food consumption (i.e. waste composition, reasons for disposing) and a diachronic analysis of consumer behaviour, which could shed light on how and why waste-related patterns developed through time. This could be of relevance in that the current disposition to food fads and scandal-driven panic-oriented behaviour could be traced back to a logical out-growth of historical concerns. These have been connecting traditional cultural values placed to eating and health to the shift of the focus from food security (scarcity after the war), to taste (Gourmet Boom of the 80s), to safety (food scandals), to function (food faddism). High-quality demands by consumers, that are indirectly shaping the entire system at present, could also have been induced in turn by the same construction of it over time, since the concept of freshness had a complete different connotation before the appearance of supermarkets.

Non-sustainable consumption and production patterns regarding food waste (economic constraints and social consequences) should be therefore analyzed together and from a diachronic point of view. Their interactions in time could serve to achieve an integrated insight on the vectors of food waste fighting that are likely to occur in a specific national context, as well as on specific and culture-bound interconnections between social and political actors.

Switzerland ,

Swiss Comments on the HLPE study “Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems”

  • We commend the HLPE for the clear outline of this study, which needs to bring added value to existing scientific literature and policy recommendations on these complex and relevant topics, as for other HLPE reports.
  • We recommend to give additional attention to the critical issue of “knowledge” in its various dimensions (knowledge generation / knowledge sharing / capitalization, etc.) in the recommendations : knowledge is a critical and necessary condition to technology adoption and to behavioral changes which are simultaneously required for addressing food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems.
  • In our opinion, the report should focus on producing recommendations that benefit in priority to food insecure populations. Therefore, we invite the HLPE to look in more depth into food losses in staple food crops rather than in cold chains for vegetables and flowers in developing countries.
  • It would be advisable to have an universally valid definition as well as a uniform approach to measure food losses and waste : we would therefore appreciate that the HLPE considers making a recommendation on both the definition and the way to measure food losses and waste.
  • We would also welcome an explicit research focus on the gender dimension of food losses and waste to improve food and nutrition security in the context of sustainable food systems: men and women are differently impacted by food losses and waste, which they face with differentiated capacities, assets and support (public policies).


Lisa Kitinoja The Postharvest Education Foundation, United States of America

Dear moderators,

I have been following this online discussion (Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems ) during the past few months, and it is good to see input and ideas coming in from many countries and types of organizations.

A few years ago I led a postharvest food losses study for the Gates Foundation, and we took a look back at 12 "agricultural development projects" funded by the World Bank, USAID , USDA, JICA, etc. to see what had worked or did not work in terms of helping smallholders in developing countries to reduce food losses. More than 45 scientists from a dozen countries participated in 2 years of field research including face to face interviews of past project beneficiaries and managers in 6 countries (Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Indonesia, India and Rwanda).

The report summary can  be found online here:

BMGF Appropriate Postharvest Technologies project (WFLO 2009-10) (slide deck) (full report)

The key recommendations are as follow:

Building on Lessons Learned

Future projects should incorporate the major lessons learned from the 12 projects that were revisited by our WFLO/UC Davis postharvest teams, and the results of our 30 commodity systems assessments and 24 postharvest losses and quality assessments.

1) Focus on the Beneficiaries

Many of our assessments pointed to the need to advocate agri-business skills, attitudes and aspirations.

  • Treat farmers as agri-business people rather than just as farmers.  Rural youth are especially interested in developing business and entrepreneurial skills.
  • Ask smallholder farmers to consider issues beyond their farm plots – address the entire value chain, take more responsibilities in return for additional opportunities for profit making
  • Deliver targeted training or agricultural extension services that help improve the quality of produce, postharvest handling and marketing linkages.
  • Provide training in local languages, incorporate audio-visual training aids
  • Aim to be not only more productive but more profitable. 

Many of the most successful past projects assisted farmers to become active marketers, rather than passively waiting for a trader to arrive at their farm gate and offer a price. When farmers were willing to take on more responsibility for their crops and become direct marketers, by learning how to grade, pack, handle and sell their produce directly to the retailer, they also gained more of the financial rewards.

2) Work through Groups

Whether via informal groups, co-operatives or formal associations, it is vital to work with groups to impact policy and reach large numbers of people.

Groups are the key to:

  • Improving communication in order to strengthen marketing capacity and market linkages
  • Assessing local needs, facilitating targeted training, introducing new crops and technologies
  • Managing contracts and sales beyond capacity of individuals. 
  • Gathering and incorporating farmer feedback to assist in measuring the effectiveness of interventions
  • Building privatization efforts (moving from project provided services to community provided services)
  • Development of financing opportunities (micro-credit, creative schemes)
  • Designing appropriate, cost effective innovation delivery systems (providing people with the information and skills they need, when and where and in a way they can best understand and use it).

The CSA process we used to gather information on commodity systems during this planning project can be inexpensively and effectively applied to reassess the progress of farmer groups as they try out and adopt or reject new postharvest technologies.

Recent grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for micro-finance ($38m) will allow 18 institutions to expand their portfolios, and reach more smallholder farmers.

3) Women's issues remain important

Access of women to credit, training and extension services remain lower than that of men. Ideas for improvements include:

  • Increasing the number and percentage of women hired and trained as extension workers
  • Holding training programs and extension meetings close to the homes of women so they can attend more easily
  • Holding meetings/trainings in the afternoon since women have a lot of household and farm work to take care of in the mornings
  • Offering trainings via video, posters, discussions, role playing, etc (to increase accessibility and relevance for those who are non-literate).

Many of these issues were recently highlighted by a report from the World Food Programme (2009).

4) Postharvest best practices should be incorporated early on in projects.

Identifying appropriate interventions is the first step key, since barriers affecting adoption of postharvest interventions include complexity, availability and perceived costs versus benefits. Having a year round supply of vegetables could improve the nutritional status of rural families, and especially for young children and their mothers.

The World Bank estimates that 20–25% of the global disease burden for children is due to under-nutrition (World Bank, 1993). Postharvest technology is an important part of achieving food security. According to the UN, Food security is typically subdivided into three components: (i) availability, or the existence of an adequate and stable supply of food; (ii) access, or the ability to obtain (physically or economically) appropriate and nutritious food; and (iii) utilization, or the ability to consume and benefit from nutritious foods (UN, 1996).

Postharvest best practices include:

  • Clean and efficient sorting, grading, packing, cooling, storage
  • These topics should be addressed via agricultural extension and related to infrastructure development and technology improvements
  • Past project assessments revealed that most of the postharvest activities implemented in the assessed projects were too few and too late. 

Work is on-going by our economic team members to develop an "expert system" for decision making regarding when to use which postharvest technology for what crops. Key decision making inputs include how the technology can affect postharvest losses, shelf life and market value for a specific crop, and what the technology will cost in a specific location.

5) Invest wisely in postharvest infrastructure

  • Make investments early in the project (on the farms, at packinghouses, for transport or storage, as well as in the markets). 
  • Develop the infrastructure to enhance their agri-business (consider location, access, costs, etc).
  • Match the facilities (cost, size, scope) to local needs and management capabilities.
  • Develop and enhance horticultural value chains by improving communication
  • Deliver training to ensure that infrastructure is utilized and maintained properly. 
  • Build in sustainability by using rational business models for providing businesses services (fee for service)

Training in postharvest horticulture increases readiness and willingness to make changes, but if postharvest infrastructure and marketing support is not there for participants, the results of training can be frustration. Similarly, providing infrastructure without training can be a disaster waiting to happen— successful postharvest management requires complex knowledge and skills.

Improving communication regarding pertinent information (i.e. expected weather changes, availability and prices of postharvest supplies, consumer demands, changes in the needs of traders and market prices) will require outreach efforts via accessible methods such as local radio, inexpensive mobile phones, internet kiosks or via visual means (for example daily updated whiteboards posting market prices).

6) Build local capacity (strengthen institutions, human resources, community services)

Training should leave behind a cadre of local trainers and support service businesses to continue the work that is started by a development project. Capacity building includes:

  • Postharvest technical and educational program development, especially targeting women and rural youths
  • combining lab research with adaptive on-farm or market based fieldwork
  • training of master trainers
  • network creation (helping members of the value chain meet and get to know each other)
  • resource identification and strengthening of support services (local postharvest suppliers, repair services, engineers, credit)
  • Building functional local capacity seems to have a strong relationship to sustainability
  • Designing appropriate innovation delivery systems depends upon first developing this local capacity.

We recommend that future projects include Commodity Systems Assessment (CSA) as a methodology for training extension workers— the CSA process requires them to work as a team, learn by doing, study all the details on the local commodity system, meet key players, decision makers, producers, postharvest handlers, processors, marketers, and understand the value chain from field to fork. The original CSAM manual is available online from the UN FAO inPHo website (LaGra, 1990).

Several of our consultants recommended that future projects include the methodology for mapping and influencing dynamic agrifood markets (includes Value Chain Mapping) as one of the first steps of any new development project. The manual is available online from <>  (Vermeulen et al, 2008).

Hall and Devereau (2000), when studying low cost storage for sweet potatoes in Uganda, found that a combination of lab research centered at modern institutions and a adaptive research fieldwork based approach could be used to improve results and speed the technology validation process.

7) Projects should have a longer term focus

  • A longer project cycle (7 to 10 years) would increase the likelihood of sustainable results.
  • Projects that follow up on evaluation based recommendations (such as those provided in this report) can achieve good results. 
  • Horticultural development project plans should be flexible enough to allow for adjustments during implementation

8) Promote an Integrated Postharvest Management System

Our final recommendation is to promote an integrated postharvest management system beginning with "training of master postharvest trainers".

One of the unplanned side effects of this planning project has been to raise the expectation of potential target groups, since once they learned a little nit about how postharvest technology can help improve their livelihoods they actively have been seeking more information and requesting future training. Direct requests have already been made for:

  • Training in the establishment of cool chain management for horticultural crops (Rwanda, India).
  • Installation of cool chambers and training of farmers (Rwanda, Ghana).
  • Training on simple village level food processing methods (India, Nepal, Benin)
  • Training of postharvest trainers (Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Cameroon, Kenya, Zimbabwe, India, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh)

The following steps would be required:

  • Smallholder farmers could then be locally trained to begin with improving quality on the farm (using maturity indices, gentle handling, pre-sorting, protective packages, and shade)
  • Training of master trainers in each target country – includes training in technical knowledge in horticulture, appropriate postharvest technology, business development skills, cost/benefit analyses, improved teaching/training practices. Master trainers serve to leverage any future training efforts by having a multiplier effect.
  • Farmers could be encouraged to learn about direct marketing and the many new responsibilities it entails
  • Postharvest tools and supplies should be made available for sale at rural postharvest shops (make it easier for farmers to try any new technology)
  • Smallholder farmers could be trained to develop decision making skills for utilizing when appropriate, some form of cooling, storage or processing in order to further enhance the market value of their horticultural crops.
  • Micro-credit or rent-to own models should be integrated into any outreach efforts.

Initially, the focus of any new development project should be to provide basic information and demonstrations of these simple practices that can reduce postharvest losses. The longer term goal should be to promote the use of cooling and cool or cold storage and transport practices that can protect the investment of the farmers and can further reduce losses. Globally, investments in the cold chain often have been shown to repay themselves in a short period of time (Kitinoja, 2008)—hence the existence of an enormous number of companies around the world that offer services in cooling, cold storage and transport for a fee that is willingly paid by the owner of the produce— and this reduction in waste theoretically allows for three positive outcomes. The grower can receive more for their crops, while the middlemen or marketers lose less during handling and transport, and the consumer gets a better quality product at the same or lower price.  By making an investment in appropriate scale postharvest technologies we can therefore achieve a win/win/win situation, where everyone involved in the value chain will benefit. The cool chain simply protects the food supply as it moves along the value chain—so we can end up with more food, of better quality, safer and more nutritious to eat, and at a lower price because we have reduced the level of waste.


Dr. Lisa Kitinoja

The Postharvest Education Foundation

PO Box 38, La Pine, Oregon 97739 USA

Website homepage:

James Rohan Australia

The solitary purpose of this report is to begin a dialogue on considering quality systems thinking to improve food security in sustainable food systems. For people to be hungry at a time when we waste food demonstrates that opportunity.

System thinking offers insights in how to define, analyse, and consider solutions. Waste in a Food Security context is much broader than what ends in landfill. By considering food as an operation including raw materials, conversion, inventory and transport, analysis can be targeted with useful comparison to the quality paradigm. In terms of opportunity to improve, a majority of the waste is anticipated to be in first world. Third world though would also benefit in that the ideas are transferable.

Food security is defined by access, availability ,utilisation and reliability. Each criterion has specific waste impacts that must be addressed.  Impacts due to soil degradation, water scarcity, arable land availability are seen as areas for system improvement and need a separate discussion. The vision of the report is to offer a framework to engage the public in saving food.

[see detailed comments in the attachment, Ed.]

See the attachment: Waste - Save Food.docx
Germany ,

In recent times, the topic food losses/food waste has come back to the political agenda. Several studies have been launched since (see Brussels-briefing; FAO, World Bank, GIZ etc.) which came to similar conclusions about the scope of wastage, using existing data from FAOSTAT and from former studies in the 80/90es. Accordingly, technical and institutional solutions are generally known from former times, but not (anymore) applied. New data on losses, which are collected in the affected areas and which rely on scientific research are nevertheless rare and there is the need to invest more in research on losses in the affected areas.

The main focus of this study should lies on institutional and policy frame conditions which are able to reduce losses and waste and should elaborate on the right incentives at a policy level to tackle this problem.

[see detailed comments in the attachment, Ed.]

Jane Ambuko University of Nairobi, Kenya
  1. Under Recommendations - bullet 2 (potential for reduction for food waste, and by what means (technical and policy tools, information etc), taking into account regional and product specificities, as well as actions at different levels)
  2. My contribution 
      • Perishable food commodities including fruits and vegetables where high food losses from the production to the retail/consumer level occur, there are various interventions which would significantly reduce the losses. Some of the interventions/practices to minimize losses include
        • 1) Better production/agronomic practices to ensure produce of high quality potential at harvest
        • 2) Good harvest practices including right harvest maturity + harvest time, careful harvesting to minimize mechanical damage
        • 3) Good postharvest handling practices such as grading, shading, sanitization, cooling
        • 4) Better packaging for transportation to distant markets
        • 5) Maintaining a cold chain from harvest to marketing
        • 6) Application of some of the tested applicable postharvest technologies that have been used n developed countries to successfully reduce postharvest losses to below 10% compared to 40-50% in the developing countries
        • *Most of the proposed interventions above simply require capacity building for the producers (farmers) through various methods such as field days, workshops, farmer field schools
Felicitas Schneider Institute of Waste Management, BOKU-University of Natural Resources ...

Dear Sir or Madam,

many thanks for the opportunity to give response on the call “Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems” which is very interesting. The Institute of Waste Management of the BOKU-University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna has been dealing with the topic of food wastage for more than 12 years and we have investigated different issues along the food supply chain (

From our point of view, the call includes a very general description of a very extensive issue and one should be careful not to overload the intended study too much. As it is mentioned, the study should be finished in a very short time period and it seems to be in question if it is possible to handle all the different issues in a proper way. Thus, we suggest to focus on issues which have not been already covered by previous studies (such as Gustavsson et al., 2011). A relaunch of an uncertain estimation on the generation of food losses and wastes based on the same very poor data seems not to be very meaningful.

The aspect of over-nutrition/obesity should be better excluded from the food waste prevention discussion as it raises a lot of ethically sensitive questions when thinking about implementation of corresponding prevention measures. Certainly obesity is an important topic but should be targeted in another context (e.g. economic damage due to increased health-care costs etc.).

Although food waste has been discussed for some time, there is no common definition or methodology. Further, uncoordinated research work has been done resulting in various recommendations to several countries worldwide. To facilitate a more efficient approach in future, we suggest to consider the approach and results of current food waste research projects. In August 2012 a 4-year FP7-project named FUSIONS was launched which is supported by 21 respectable European organisations and food waste experts from 13 EU member countries. The overall aim of the project is to contribute significantly to the harmonisation of food waste monitoring, to investigate the feasibility of social innovative measures for optimised food use in the food chain and the development of guidelines for a common Food Waste policy for EU-27. Utilising the policy and behavioural change recommendations from the delivery of the key objectives, the FUSIONS European multi-stakeholder platform will enable, encourage, engage and support key actors across Europe in delivering a 50% reduction of food waste and a 20% reduction in the food chains resource inputs by 2020. Examples could include uniform labelling addressing sell- or use-by dates, innovations in the chain to improve shelf-life of food products, or creative solutions for behavioural change within stakeholders. It all starts with agreed-upon definitions and a common methodology for referring to the extent of the problem and its drivers. More information can be found via the website ( or via facebook (

As the main goals of FUSIONS are very similar to those formulated within the CFS call, it seems to be very wise to consider the already done respectively planned work (FUSIONS will end in July 2016) to include the European Community area into CFS-project. The most reputed European food waste experts already contribute to the FUSIONS consortium, thus it can be seen as think tank for the region and could be used as input for the CFS-project.

Greetings from Vienna,

Felicitas Schneider and colleagues


Felicitas Schneider, MSc

Institute of Waste Management

BOKU-University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences

Muthgasse 107/3rd floor

1190 Vienna



Jeffrey Klein The Global FoodBanking Network, United States of America

With regard to points 5 and 6, I believe it is critical to acknowledge and quantify with respect to point 5, the amount of food waste that CANNOT or IS NOT recovered and re-distributed because of the following policies many/most countries have in place


1) Lack of or unfavorable good samaritan laws relating to insulation donors who provide food fit for human consumption

2) Lack of or inadequate tax policy allowing for full and complete tax deductibility of PRODUCT and/or CASH DONATIONS to food banks

3) Any VAT or VAT-like tax that is levied on the value of surplus food items to food banks.


This data should be used to proactively make the case for changes to all relevant aspects of points 1-3 where the necessary conditions for full and enthusiastic participation in and support of food banks is compromised by lack of these structural incentives.

M. en C. Víctor Manuel Arriaga Haro CONAPESCA, Mexico

Al respecto me permito comentarle que el documento plantea la propuesta del HLPE para establecer el alcance del estudio solicitado y poder definir, al término de esta primer consulta electrónica, los términos de referencia para comprender las rutas y procesos vinculados a las pérdidas y el desperdicio de alimentos a nivel mundial y poder establecer directrices y recomendaciones para reducir su impacto social, ambiental y económico, así como su posible contribución para fortalecer de forma sistémica la seguridad alimentaria a través de sus cuatro dimensiones: disponibilidad, acceso, utilización y estabilidad de los alimentos.

Sin duda alguna, buscar alternativas de solución para tal problemática mundial, conlleva la integración de equipos de trabajo multidisciplinarios, así como la evaluación y análisis de múltiples factores que convergen en este fenómeno. Tan solo por mencionar algunos de estos factores:

Nivel de desarrollo de los países.

Comportamiento de los consumidores (patrones de consumo).

Fenómenos naturales y climáticos (sequías, inundaciones, alteración en la corriente del Niño).

Sociales (niveles de pobreza alimentaria).

Ambientales (manejo de desechos sólidos, emisión de gases de invernadero).

Prácticas de mercado (estándares de calidad y estéticos de los productos alimenticios).

En el caso particular de la pesca y la acuacultura, si consideramos sólo el nivel de desarrollo de los países; las principales causas de pérdidas y desperdicios, en los países con alto desarrollo, están asociadas al descarte de productos durante la pesca y a los patrones de comportamiento del consumidor, esta última causa adquiere niveles de hasta un 25%, mientras que en los países en vías de desarrollo, las principales causas son el manejo pos-captura, los procesos de transformacióny la distribución, todas ellas relacionadas a las limitaciones en infraestructura y tecnologías de los procesos productivos.

Según estimaciones recientes, se considera que en México se desperdician o pierden casi 100 kg de alimentos por persona por año, colocándonos entre los países con mayores mermas causadas por hábitos o patrones de consumo (Estados Unidos y Países de la Unión Europea desperdician entre 95 y 115 kg per cápita).

Dada la falta e insuficiencia de datos, estos estudios se hacen con muchas suposiciones sobre el desperdicio y la pérdida de alimentos, sobretodo en lo que se refiere a la cuantificación de éstos a niveles tan estrechos como el núcleo familiar.

Es por ello urgente que se investigue a un nivel de mayor certidumbre sobre los diferentes procesos y factores intrínsecos asociados con las pérdidas y desperdicios de los alimentos, desde la cadena de suministro de la producción primaria, pasando por aquellos relacionados con las prácticas de gestión y gobernanza, tanto públicas como privadas, hasta los patrones de comportamiento del consumidor final. Especialmente si se tiene en cuenta que, en países como México y otros de menor desarrollo, existe una preocupación que ocupa a sus gobiernos para disminuir los niveles de pobreza alimentaria y mal nutrición.

La participación de México, tanto en la contextualización como en la ejecución de este estudio, sería de gran importancia para establecer líneas base de esta problemática, ya que desde el inicio de la actual administración, el Lic. Enrique Peña Nieto está impulsando la Cruzada Nacional Contra el Hambre a partir de una alimentación y nutrición adecuada, programa que busca mediante la implementación de sinergias multisectoriales y acciones para minimizar las pérdidas de alimentos, apoyar de forma inmediata a aquellos sectores de la población en pobreza extrema y carencia alimentaria.


Jospeh Schmidhuber FAO, Italy

Dear Members of the  HLPE Steering Committee,


I am referring to the e-consolation process you have initiated on “Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems” I am also referring to the paper on the scope proposed by the HLPE Steering Committee

In keeping with the basic scope outlined in the guidelines, I would like to suggest that 3 analytical pieces be commissioned by the HLPE. They include:
A.Case studies to empirically measure waste and losses.
This paper would measure the extent of waste and losses along the various stages of the food chain. It would cover 5 developing countries, ideally representative of 5 different developing regions (e.g. sub-Saharan Africa, Near East & North Africa, South Asia, East Asia & Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean) as well as 2 developed countries (e.g. 2 countries in North America and Europe). The paper would propose a statistically sound methodology to gauge nationally representative quantities and values of food losses and waste and do so at 3 key stages of the value chain:
  1. Post harvest, farm, stores
  2. Distributors, processors, wholesalers and retailers
  3. Households, individual and common (cantinas, hospitals, prisons, etc.) 
In tandem with measuring the extent of losses and waste at different stages of the value chain, the study would collect the parameters that characterize the technologies used at the 3 different stages of the food handling chain. Data collection would, where possible, also include contextual information, such as data on the overall infrastructure endowment (access to roads, public storage, electricity, communication, etc.), overall farm mechanization, etc.
B.Establishing the economic case for the reduction of losses and waste
Based on the results gathered and presented in the case studies of the first paper, this paper would examine the basic economic rationale for the reduction of food losses and waste at different stages of the value chain. Without preempting the results of this paper, basic economic analysis suggests that the economic rationale for waste and losses reduction at different stages of the value chain can be fundamentally different, with different beneficiaries within a society and different marginal reduction/abatement costs. The paper will cover the following points:
  1. Introducing the reasons why losses occur (low food prices, inadequate infrastructure, handling and storage facilities, etc.)
  2. Introducing the externalities associated with waste and losses, differences in economic and financial costs. To illustrate this point: waste in developed countries households is often a reflection/the result of low food prices. Food prices are too low to capture the full economic costs/the scarcity of the natural resources needed for the production of food, i.e. water scarcity and pollution, land degradation, loss in biodiversity, carbon emissions, insufficient land fill, etc. While important, here waste and losses are primarily a sustainable development issue, they affect heavily though not exclusively developed countries and their reduction is unlikely to help address hunger and other forms of malnutrition. These losses/waste could be contrasted by losses that occur at the upper part of the value chain (farm, storage, distribution). Such losses reduce farm incomes (lower volumes of sales) and food availability. Their reduction is likely to have a stronger impact on hunger reduction, both by raising farm incomes and lowering food prices.
  3. Measuring the economic and the financial costs and benefits of food losses and waste: empirical analysis based on the 7 case studies.
  4. Identifying economically optimal levels of waste and losses at the various stages of the food chain. This includes an illustration of increasing marginal abatement costs depending on the level of waste reduction targets, an understanding that there are economically optimal level of waste/losses. Results include a differentiation of optimal waste levels across population groups within a country and across the countries identified in the case studies. The results will help inform the Zero Hunger Challenges and in particular the Zero Waste Challenge. The results will also help understand that it is important to differentiate between an (uninformed) advocacy goal and an economically sound target.
C.Examining policy interventions to reduce waste and losses
Based on the results of the case studies in the first paper and the economic analysis in the second paper, this study will examine possible policy interventions and evaluate their differential impacts. Specifically, it will:
  1. Identify costs and benefits of different policy interventions at different stages of the food value chain
  2. Identify differential impacts of different interventions alternatives, costs and benefits (beneficiaries). It will provide a differentiated analysis of costs and benefits within and across countries.
  3. Identify optimal policy measures wrt to different policy objectives, e.g. hunger reduction or sustainable resource use.