The FAO State of Agriculture report (2019) estimates that around 14 percent of food produced is lost between harvest and retail, while an estimated 17 percent of total global food production is wasted (11 percent in households, 5 percent in the foodservice, and 2 percent in retail) globally.5

India ranks 94th out of 107 countries on the 2020 Global Hunger Index. Nearly 40 percent of the food produced in India is wasted every year due to fragmented food systems and inefficient supply chains — a figure estimated by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). A survey conducted by ICAR- 

Central Institute of Post-Harvest Engineering and Technology (CIPHET) in 2013-14, revealed the estimated economic value of post-harvest losses was Rs926.51 billion in 2014, which was 0.6% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).1

What constitutes food loss and food waste?

All the crop and livestock human-edible commodity quantities that, directly or indirectly, completely exit the post-harvest/slaughter production/supply chain by being discarded, incinerated, or otherwise, and do not re-enter in any other utilization (such as animal feed, industrial use, etc.), up to, and excluding, the retail level collectively constitute food loss.

Food waste is defined as food and associated inedible parts removed from the human food supply chain in the following sectors: manufacturing of food products (under certain circumstances); food/grocery retail; food service; and households.

Implications of food loss and waste

●      Environmental impact 

Food loss and waste represent wastage of the water, land, energy, and other natural resources used to produce food. Food loss and waste are responsible for about 8% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The volume of water used to produce lost or wasted food is equivalent to three times the volume of Lake Geneva. Nearly 30% of the world’s agricultural land is currently occupied to produce food that is ultimately never consumed. If food use and distribution is better managed, 14% of all GHG emissions from agriculture could be avoided by 2050.3

●      Economic impacts on farmers & Social Impact

The safe and nutritious food that is lost, discarded, and wasted can feed up to 2 billion people, or more than double the number of undernourished in the world. If we save one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted, we can feed 870 million hungry people.

The Source

Food loss occurs at various stages and levels some of which are:

  1. At the farm- due to inadequate harvesting time, climatic conditions, practices applied at harvest and handling, and challenges in marketing produce.
  2. During storage- due to inadequate storage conditions, decisions made at earlier stages of the supply chain that cause products to have a shorter shelf life.
  3. In transit- Good infrastructure and efficient trade logistics are key to preventing food loss. Processing and packaging play a role in preserving foods, and losses are often caused by inadequate facilities, technical malfunction, or human error.

Food waste may occur in one or more than the below levels-

  1. In the shop- The causes of food waste at the retail level are linked to limited shelf life, the need for food products to meet aesthetic standards in terms of color, shape, and size, and variability in demand.
  2. In homes: Consumer waste is often caused by poor purchase and meal planning, excess buying (influenced by over-large portioning and package sizes), confusion over labels (best before and use by), and poor in-home storing.

The solutions to stem food loss and waste include: 

● applying innovation for marketing or retractable mobile food processing systems,

● Government incentives to bolster private-sector food loss and waste action and collaboration across supply chains,

● investments in training, technology, and innovation, including for small-scale producers,

● better food packaging and relaxing on regulations and standards on aesthetic requirements for fruit and vegetables; behaviours that value and make the most of food at home,

● redistributing safe surplus food to those in need through food banks; facilitating farmer’s access to consumers and shorter value chains through farmers markets and rural-urban linkages,

● investing more to strengthen infrastructure and logistics, including sustainable cold chains and cooling technologies.

A Ray of Hope

S4S Technologies (science for society technologies) is one of the organizations trying to overcome food loss through innovation and technology. It is a modern start-up that helps farmers preserve their produce, become self-dependent, and find novel ways to sell their produce directly. Nidhi Pant, the co-founder at S4S technologies mentions that "our goal is first to prevent the food wastage happening at the farm level and also move farmers out of poverty. We are also scaling this up rapidly to reach 3000 women entrepreneurs." 

Nidhi Pant is also the recipient of the Women Transforming India award by Niti Ayog in collaboration with the UN and has also been listed on Forbes 30, under 30 Asia. Listen to her story unfolding covering aspects like the reason for her interest in science, the birth of S4S Technologies, her perspectives on overcoming gender disparity within the realm of science and technology, the need for more role models for women, and the future of sustainable methods to prevent food waste. 

Delve deeper into the world of sustainability, technology, food waste, and food loss on our podcast, “Word to the W.I.S.E.”

If you’d like to learn more or get mentored, send us a note in the “Contact Us” section of SaferIndiaToday.org, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

References:

  1. "India Has Insufficient Data Available On Food Loss And Waste: Report". 2021. Carbon Copy. https://carboncopy.info/india-has-insufficient-data-available-on-food-loss-and-waste-report/.
  2. Nations, United. 2021. "Background - Food Waste And Loss Reduction | United Nations". United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/observances/end-food-waste-day/background.
  3. Nations, United. 2021. "Food Loss And Waste Reduction | United Nations". United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/observances/end-food-waste-day.
  4. Zacharias, Thomas. 2021. "India Has A Food Wastage Problem. Here’s How Individuals Can Make A Difference". The Indian Express. https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/food-waste-index-report-india-coronavirus-hunder-index-726190.
  5. United Nations Environment Programme. 2021. "Food Waste Index Report 2021". Nairobi. https://www.unep.org/resources/report/unep-food-waste-index-report-2021.
  6. "Food Loss And Waste Must Be Reduced For Greater Food Security And Environmental Sustainability". 2021. UN Environment. https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/food-loss-and-waste-must-be-reduced-greater-food-security-and.