Food Loss and Waste in Fish Value Chains
©FAO/Ansen Ward

FLW 2021: A year in review of addressing FLW in the fish value chains

Omar Peñarubia, 1 January 2022

Looking back at 2021, it is clear that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has continued to change the way fish is sold and purchased by the consumer, notably resulting in higher use of online markets and services for take-away, deliveries and drive through markets. Although fewer restrictions are imposed on consumer mobility enabling more restaurant dine-in services, food deliveries are still in demand to help control the spread of the virus particularly the new variants that are more contagious. With strain still being placed on resources at all levels of the value chain, it is ever important to reduce the amount of waste that occur throughout the food value chain, and for quality food to reach the consumer. With proper processing and storage of foods, and careful handling and packaging of prepared foods, food waste can be reduced if not eliminated.

Addressing food loss and waste is high on the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) agenda. In fact, reducing food loss and waste is one of FAO’s Programme Priority Areas (PPA), which was introduced in October 2021. PPA is a strategic framework set forth to fill critical gaps and put in place the conditions needed to drive the changes that will ultimately contribute to the achievement of selected Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets. Reduction of food loss and waste is addressed specifically under the 4 “Better’s”: Better Nutrition, Better Production, Better Life and Better Environment. The programme aims to support countries by identifying and overcoming the challenges of addressing food loss and waste (FLW) at scale through the adoption of a holistic and systems approach to fill knowledge and capacity gaps, strengthening policy, influencing regulatory and institutional frameworks, and providing incentives and stimulating action by food supply chain actors ‘from farm to fork’.

Earlier in 2021, FAO developed a Voluntary Code of Conduct for Food Loss and Waste Reduction (CoC) following the request of the 26th Session of the Committee on Agriculture (COAG). The CoC, which was approved on 15 June 2021 at the 42nd session of FAO Conference, provides a set of internationally recognized, nationally adaptable guiding principles and standards for responsible practices to effectively reduce FLW while promoting sustainable and inclusive agricultural and food systems, hence aiding the achievement of sustainable development.

Furthermore, FAO continues to advocate FLW awareness through the yearly celebration of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste (IDAFLW) on September 29. The observance of the international day makes a clear call to action for both the public and the private sectors to encourage efforts in reducing food loss and waste toward ensuring food security for all and particularly the most vulnerable.

Specifically in the fisheries and aquaculture sector, FAO continued to address FLW throughout 2021 and through different programmes such as the FISH4ACP, Flexible Multi-partner Mechanism (FMM) project on small scale fisheries, and Sustainable Fish Value Chains for Small Island Developing States (SVC4SIDS), to name a few.

Looking forward to the new year, 2022 has been declared the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA 2022). IYAFA 2022 aims to raise awareness of the role of small-scale fisheries and aquaculture, strengthen science-policy interaction, empower stakeholders to take action, and build new and strengthen existing partnerships. IYAFA2022 will provide an opportunity to raise the profile of small-scale fisheries and aquaculture including the issue of FLW.

Further, the upcoming development of Gender-Responsive Fish Loss Assessment Methodology (GRFLAM) is very timely and relevant. FLW can be addressed using a combination of several entry points for solutions including social and gender equality. Gender is one of the less-studied and understood issues and the link between gender and food loss has not received a great deal of attention. GRFLAM aims to identify gender-based constraints (GBC) that contribute to losses, and recommends solutions based on the relevant existing knowledge on fish loss in small-scale fisheries and gender nexus. This methodology is still under development and will be pilot-tested in selected countries in 2022.

Building on the attention, activities, programmes and projects focused on addressing FLW in 2021, and with the support and efforts both from public and private sectors, 2022 will continue to see progress on the critical path to achieving FLW reduction in the years to come.