The Science behind Food Wastage
A report published January 10, 2013, in the UK-based newspaper the Guardian, stated almost half of the world’s food had been thrown away. What an abomination!
Why is it that the consumers in wealthy countries discard 222m tonnes of food every year, which is almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa, 230m tonnes?
In developed countries, people only need to allocate around 25% of their income for food, which gives them more options, which ultimately turns to wastage. On the other hand, rate of food wastage on consumer level is very low in developing nations like Bangladesh, as most people in these countries are bound to allocate around 70% of their income for food.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), annual per capita food wasted by consumers in Europe and North-America was 95-115 kg, while Sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia wasted only 6-11 kg. The FAO also reported that the total annual per capita production of edible parts of food for human consumption is, in Europe and North-America, about 900 kg, and in sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia, 460 kg. The annual per capita food loss in Europe and North America was 280-300kg, and in sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia it is 120-170kg.
However, the report further suggested that 30-50% of the global food (approximately 1.2-2bn tonnes) produced annually in the world actually never reach consumers for consumption!
Thus, the issue of food loss can be attributed not only to consumer behavior, but also to inappropriate infrastructure and storage facility, poor engineering and agriculture practices.
For instance, huge pre- and post-harvest losses occur as result of the use of traditional harvesting methods. Delayed harvesting also contributes to a huge amount of grain losses, during the reaping, transporting and handling of the harvested crops. The percentage of loss can be between 20% and 60%. Lack of technology in harvesting and processing level is another major issue- causing higher production loss in the developing nations like Bangladesh, where investment for that technology is not easy.
The FAO’s global initiative on food losses and waste reduction suggested strengthening the supply chain through the direct support of farmers and investments in infrastructure, transportation and post-harvest techniques. They also suggested an expansion of the food and packaging industry to help to reduce the amount of food loss and waste.
Yet, unfortunately, scientists predict that approximately one billion people around the world are ‘going hungry’ and further two billion people will be affected due to inadequate food supply by 2050 as a result of worsening climate, food loss along the supply chain and poor food production.
Despite various initiatives with slow but steady growth, we do not know for sure as to what the future holds. We all have a responsibility to our community, yet it is our actions that are shaping up the future ever so meekly. This is what we have to fight against.