Bureau régional de la FAO pour le Proche-Orient et l’Afrique du Nord

Calls for Evidence-Based Action Plans to Limit Food Losses, Waste

National efforts towards achieving 50% reduction in food losses and waste over 10 years. Studies: One-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted.

Food losses and waste (FLW) is a major global concern. Governments, international organisations, research institutes, producers, distributers, retailers and consumers have different ideas and thoughts about this problem as well as possible solutions to create a change.

Governments from the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region have made concerted efforts to recognise the issue of food losses and waste, bring awareness to prevention and reduction, and commit to strategic action. A major step was the collective goal to reduce FLW by 50 percent over 10 years, and to request support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in comprehensive studies and strategy development.

A process of consultation with member countries and multiple stakeholders has led to a Regional Strategic Framework for Food Losses and Waste Reduction in NENA (NENA Strategic Framework) that was presented and endorsed in 2014. The NENA Strategic Framework calls for evidence-based national action plans with clear objectives, baseline, indicators and targets.

Awareness and advocacy for FLW reduction have intensified, with global policy processes strongly linking FLW reduction to food and nutrition security and sustainable food systems, such as the Rome Declaration and Framework for Action, Lima-Paris Action Agenda, the G20 under Turkish presidency, and the 2014 Committee on World Food Security Plenary and High Level Panel of Experts’ study on FLW in the context of sustainable food systems.

Studies suggest that one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. In developing countries, more than 40% of the food losses occur at post-harvest and processing levels, while in industrialised countries, more than 40% of the food losses occur at retail and consumer levels.

“Developing coherent, evidence-based plans for FLW reduction, aligned with national strategies and agriculture sector development plans in consultation with all concerned stakeholders from production to consumption, and across disciplines such as nutrition, education, health and industry, is needed," said Jennifer Smolak, FAO agro-industry and infrastructure officer. "This should also include clarifying roles and responsibilities of different actors: the private sector, civil society, government, the FAO and international organisations.”

She stressed “the need for more and better data to gauge the extent, causes and effects of FLW along the entire value chain from the farmer to the final consumer to (a) understand the potential of FLW reduction for improved food security and nutrition outcomes; (b) examine the relationships between FLW, resource footprints and sustainable resource use; (c) identify practical solutions towards reduced FLW at all stages of the value chain; and (d) set baselines and monitor progress towards FLW reduction, both at the level of overall strategies and individual projects.”.

The NENA Regional Food Loss and Waste Reduction Network (NENA FLW Network) was launched in 2015 and will provide a multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder platform to exchange knowledge, information, and good practices on FLW reduction. It is intended to complement national efforts towards achieving 50 percent FLW reduction over 10 years through support for collection of data and generation of knowledge, promotion of awareness, enhancement of coordination, and private sector engagement.

A three-year project on FLW Reduction and Value Chain Development for Food Security in Egypt and Tunisia was signed in 2015. It aims to improve the economic and environmental efficiency of the agro-food sectors in both countries, via upgraded and greened food value chains and through FLW prevention and reduction to increase availability and access in both countries to nutritious food.

A Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project in Egypt, Iran, Lebanon and Jordan aims to strengthen the capacity of national leaders of producer associations, food industry managers, and extension agents on improved value chain management to prevent food loss. Project activities are underway to assess food losses in selected value chains, develop food loss prevention curricula and guidelines, and conduct tailored capacity development workshops on reducing inefficiencies in value chains.

Several countries are undertaking national-level activities with FAO assistance to reduce FLW. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) launched a commitment to reducing FLW in 2013 and a proposed “Strategy and Action Plan to Reduce FLW in KSA” has evolved into an integral component and pillar of the KSA Food and Nutrition Security Strategy currently being developed.

In Morocco, a TCP project is conducting a comprehensive field study of six food value chains -- apples, citrus, prickly pear, dates, figs, wheat -- using the food loss analysis methodology developed by FAO’s Global Initiative: SAVE FOOD.

A FLW field study following the same methodology has begun in Lebanon, focusing on the fruit sector.

Other countries have shown interest and potential for future activities, such as United Arab Emirates, where a roundtable was hosted by FAO in 2014 on food waste; Sudan under the lead of the Food Security Technical Secretariat; and Oman in the context of the Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development Strategy (SARDS).


What is FLW

Food loss and food waste refer to the decrease of food in subsequent stages of the food supply chain intended for human consumption. Food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain, from initial production down to final household consumption.

The decrease may be accidental or intentional, but ultimately leads to less food available for all. Food that gets spilled or spoilt before it reaches its final product or retail stage is called food loss.

This may be due to problems in harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure or market/price mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.

Harvested bananas that fall off a truck, for instance, are considered food loss. Food that is fit for human consumption, but is not consumed because it is spoiled or left to spoil or discarded by retailers or consumers is called food waste. This may be because of rigid or misunderstood date marking rules, improper storage, buying or cooking practices. A carton of brown-spotted bananas thrown away by a shop, for instance, is considered food waste.

FAO’s 33rd Session of the Regional Conference for the Near East, taking place in Rome 9-13 May, will address FLW work at regional and national levels. It will discuss the growing number of FLW reduction strategies and field projects being developed or implemented in the NENA region in the scope of the regional initiatives and country programming frameworks.