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

Betty Bugusu United States of America
30.04.2013

To HPLE Steering Committee

It’s my pleasure to contribute to this e-consultation.

I agree with the previous contributors that there is a great need to define and differentiate waste (prevalent in industrialized nations) from loss (prevalent in developing countries) in order to design the right interventions to address each one of them.  In my opinion, the issue of waste can be addressed fairly readily through education programs.  

My comments are focused on addressing food losses as they have a great impact in areas of highest food insecurity.   Much of the loss in these areas is caused by the following:

  1. Lack of markets and limited access to markets. Lack of markets is the biggest hindrance; characterized by lack of demand in the areas of production (rural) and lack of value –added products for areas of demand (urban). Since many of the local crops are consumed locally on the farm, they have had minimum to no penetration into markets. Furthermore, the highly perishable crops such as roots and tubers, fruits and vegetables always require immediate processing to enhance shelf-life. The problem is exacerbated by limited access to markets due to poor infrastructure and lack of distribution channels for their raw commodities
  2. Limited access to improved post-harvest technologies. Majority of the local farmers and processors often have no access to improved and end up with poor quality products that do not meet the market standards
  3. Limited linkage to the private sector for sustainability of the whole supply chain system. Not much effort has been put into development of high-quality, value-added products (food and non-food) that are attractive to entrepreneurs.  

The conglomeration of these issues results in high losses after harvest and low motivation for farmers to produce more.

My recommendations:

The current focus on increasing agricultural productivity is not enough the improve food security, especially as it is already constrained by diminishing natural resources (land, water, and energy) and climate change.  Investment in downstream post-harvest activities is necessary.  An effective value chain approach that emphasizes linking farmers to markets is essential. This can be achieved through development of technologies and policies that support investment in market and trade opportunities.

Technology recommendations

  1. There is need to identify, develop, and share appropriate technologies in the post-harvest segment of the value chain including storage, processing, marketing, and distribution.  For example, technologies to transform raw commodities into value-added products market expansion. The work of Dr. Philip Nelson (Purdue University) in food loss reduction that earned him the World Food Prize (WFP) is proof of the importance of technology development.  Dr. Nelson designed the bulk aseptic processing technology which reduced food losses of fruits by processing them to a shelf-stable form for local, regional, and international markets, and trade.  (http://www.worldfoodprize.org/en/laureates/20002009_laureates/2007_nelson/)
  2. Effective technology dissemination mechanisms and platforms are needed to ensure the technologies reach the end users.

Policy recommendations

  1. Increased investment in post-harvest harvest research, development and capacity building.
  2. Establishment of appropriate financing models for the implementation of successful post-harvest technologies. Many of the technologies require financing beyond micro-finance that is prevalent in developing countries.
  3. Deliberate efforts for the public sector to engage private sector for enhancement and scale up of successful interventions
    1. Implementation of trade agreements (national, regional and international) and harmonization of standards.
    2. Improved linkages among government agencies responsible for agriculture, agribusiness and agro-industries

Suggested next steps

This consultation is a good first step to initiate a formal dialogue among leading experts and stakeholders on food waste and losses.   Lately, several initiatives have been established by different organizations to help reduce losses. There is need to integrate the initiatives in order to maximize use of resources, avoid redundancy in programs, and encourage cooperation.

  1. Create a platform for continuous engagement by stakeholders to provide research and information updates for policy development around the issue of food losses.
  2. Develop a strategic roadmap on prioritized challenges and opportunities relative to food loss post-harvest and market development issues for use by stakeholders, funding institutions, and policymakers working in food security and economic development.