FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa
©FAO/John Isaac

Food loss and waste in NENA are estimated at up to 250kg per person and over $60 billion USD annually. The social, economic, and environmental impacts are serious for a region which relies heavily on global food imports, has limited potential to increase food production, and faces scarcity of water and arable land. Reducing food losses and waste is vital for sustainable food systems and regional food security.

Tackling food loss and waste in the Near East and North Africa

Roughly 1.3 billion tonnes or about one third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted annually, according to the FAO. In a world where around 800 million still go hungry (UN Hunger report 2014), reducing food loss and waste is key to global food security and sustainable food systems.

What is going on in the region?

Food loss and food waste are serious in the NENA region; estimates indicate on average 250 Kg of food per capita annually, and about one third of food overall. The economic, social and environmental impacts of food loss and waste are equally dire. When food is lost or wasted, all the natural resources used for growing, processing, packaging, transporting and marketing that food, are also lost. In NENA, this amounts to an estimated 42 Km3 of water and 360 million hectares of land used to grow and distribute food that is ultimately lost or wasted, significant numbers for a region that suffers from natural resource scarcity.

Food loss and waste occur all along food value chains, from production to consumption. Roughly 68% of losses in NENA occur during the production, handling, processing and distribution of food (before it even reaches consumers) due to poor harvesting techniques; a lack of cold storage and proper transport; poor handling practices; exposure to heat and sunlight; inefficient marketing systems; and, weaknesses in policy and regulatory frameworks. Food waste at the consumption stage in NENA is estimated to be 34%, and is found mostly in urban areas. Significant wastage takes place during religious holidays, wedding ceremonies and family gatherings, and in the hospitality industry such as in restaurants and hotels.

Broad coordination needed

At the 32nd session of the FAO regional conference for the Near East, member countries endorsed a plan to reduce food loss and waste in the region by 50 percent over 10 years. Actions to reduce food loss and waste will help make food systems more efficient, reduce losses of scarce natural resources (water and land, most acutely), produce better economic returns for agri-business and farmers, and lower food import bills.

Four key focus areas of FAO's “Regional strategic framework for food loss and waste reduction in the Near East North Africa” guide member countries in achieving this important goal:


  • Producing and collecting reliable data and knowledge;
  • Awareness raising and promotion of good practices;
  • Developing appropriate policies and regulations; better coordination and networking;
  • Promoting investments and engaging the private sector.

FAO’s support to NENA member countries falls under the umbrella of the Global SAVE FOOD Initiative and is a pillar of the Regional Initiative on “Building Resilience for Food Security and Nutrition in NENA”.



Facts and figures

  • The NENA region imports 36 million tons of wheat per year, yet it wastes over 16 million tons every year.
  • One of the most water scarce region in the world, the NENA region wastes up to 30 percent of its scarce natural resources and energy as a result of lost or wasted food.
  • The NENA region loses and wastes up to 20 percent of cereals, 50 percent of fruits and vegetables, 16 percent of meat and 27 percent of fish and seafood.