According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) commissioned study "Global Food Losses and Food Waste" roughly one third or 1.3 billion tons of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted.
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.