The paper discusses the issues and policy options for reduction of food losses and waste in Europe and Central Asia, focusing primarily on middle and low income countries of the region.
Food losses and waste (FLW) depend on specific conditions and the local situation in a given country. In broad terms, food losses and waste are influenced by production and processing choices, patterns and technologies, internal infrastructure and capacity, marketing chains and channels for distribution, consumer purchasing and food use practices. To a large extent, FLW are rational from a private perspective as they are the result of the optimizing behaviour of agents. However, in certain countries there are serious limitations due to ineffective food chains, and a lack of capacity to preserve or process foods, or limited markets. From a societal perspective, FLW are claimed to generate socioeconomic and environmental problems.
Development context has high importance on the level, structure and causes of FLW. In developed countries of the region consumer preferences and practices are the main reason for FLW. As a consequence, all steps of the supply chain have to adjust their production, processing, or distribution to these preferences. In middle and low income countries the most frequently mentioned causes of food losses are inadequate infrastructure and technology, inefficient market and demand for supply as well as the lack of education and skills, in particular at the farm level.
Targeted investments to reduce FLW at any significant scale could be primarily done by the private sector. Equally importantly, by promoting effective policy and enabling environment in support of sustainable agricultural production, and value chain approaches the public sector can contribute to a minimisation of FLW. The scope of the public policies should be to create an enabling environment for private sector to introduce practices having potential to reduce FLW whereby contributing to increase the overall efficiency of food supply chains.
Rice self-sufficiency is a key objective of most Asian governments, yet attaining that objective has been elusive for several countries over extended periods of time; long-term status as an exporter or importer is relatively constant, and is altered only by revolutionary events (i.e., major changes in policy or technologies). Traditional rice importers tend to eat less rice (and more wheat) than traditional exporters, so the determining factors behind rice self-sufficiency must lie on the supply side. This paper finds that the main determinant of (per capita) rice production is not rice yield per hectare, but rather the amount of per capita rice area harvested, which in turn is determined largely by the proportion of land that is well-suited for growing rice. Thus, countries with ample (per capita) supplies of water and flat land (i.e. those with dominant river deltas on the mainland) are self-sufficient in rice, and countries with more varied landscapes are not.