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Joint action needed to tackle massive global food losses

07/05/2014 - 

Tackling the world’s massive food loss problem is a key to reducing hunger and poverty, but governments and companies must step up their collaboration on the issue, an international congress on food losses and waste heard today.

Speaking at the 2nd SAVE FOOD International Congress in Düsseldorf, FAO Assistant Director-General Ren Wang underlined that effective coordination across all sectors could make “a real difference” to one of the world’s major food security challenges.

While 842 million people suffer from chronic hunger, around 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted every year. FAO estimates that the food produced but never eaten would be sufficient to feed two billion people.

Even just halving the current level of losses would have a dramatic impact on the projected 60 percent increase in food availability required to feed a global population of 9 billion by 2050.

“A huge and essential gain can, and has, to be made,” Wang said.

The Assistant Director-General stressed that national governments and public organizations cannot solve the problem on their own, but should work on creating the right investment conditions for the private sector to take action.

“Only the [people] who produce food can reduce food losses at any significant scale,” he stressed. 

Werner M. Dornscheidt, President and CEO of Messe Düsseldorf GmbH, partner of the SAVE FOOD initiative, said: “As a meeting point for international decision-makers from all relevant areas, it is the intention of the SAVE FOOD Congress to pool expertise, encourage dialogue, exploit synergies and give new impetus. I am certain that the Congress will have a decisive impact on promoting our common objective.”
 
Destructive force

In addition to affecting food security and income generation, particularly for poor small-scale farmers, food losses and waste also take their toll on the environment, guzzling up precious water and land resources and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

“If global food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and the biggest user of irrigation water,” Wang told the congress. 

The land area used to produce the food that nobody eats would make food loss and waste the second biggest country in the world, he added.

Finding solutions

Food loss occurs mostly during production stages - harvesting, transportation and storage of food - while food waste typically takes place at the retailer and consumer end of the food supply chain.

UN agencies including UNEP, WFP and IFAD, public institutions and private companies are attending the two-day SAVE FOOD congress to analyse the causes of food losses and best solutions to reduce them.

The congress will focus in particular on food loss and waste in the fish, cereals, milk, fruits and vegetables and roots and tubers sectors.

Established in 2011 by FAO and trade fair organizer Messe Düsseldorf, SAVE FOOD, the Global Initiative on Food Losses and Waste Reduction, brings together 250 partners including private and public organizations and companies in a bid to change the management practices, technologies and behavior of people involved in food supply chains.

Among its activities, the Global Initiative supports the private and public sectors in piloting and implementing food loss reduction projects as well as those promoting the environmentally friendly reuse of wasted food -- for example in animal feed and compost.

The congress is taking place as part of the interpack, the world’s leading trade fair for the packaging branch and related processing industries, where businesses from about 60 countries are exhibiting products and services.