Ground Report | New Delhi: Global food waste crisis; Some 2,500 million tons of food are wasted in the world, which means that 40% of world food production ends up wasted, according to the latest report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Tesco. The figure represents 1,200 million tonnes more food than was calculated, since for the first time “the waste on farms has been quantified”.
Global food waste crisis
According to the report, that figure that had not been accounted for represents 15.3% of world production, so food with a value of 370 billion dollars would be lost only at this stage. “The report offers a more complete picture of the loss and waste of food in the world and analyzes the losses associated with crops, data that is not included, for example, in the FAO Index, which only considers subsequent losses to the harvest and accumulated along the supply chains ”, WWF highlights in a statement.
To produce all this unaccounted-for food, 440 million hectares of agricultural land and 760,000 cubic hectometres of water are used. This is equivalent to an area greater than the Indian subcontinent and a volume of water similar to 304 million Olympic swimming pools.
It also points out that previous estimates suggested that food waste generated 8% of greenhouse gases. However, the work of WWF points to a “more important” contribution of 10% that would be equivalent to almost double the annual emissions produced by all the cars that circulate in the United States and Europe.
On the other hand, the report shows that, contrary to what might be thought, per capita losses on agricultural holdings tend to be higher in industrialized regions: “Despite having greater mechanization on farms and having only 37 % of the world’s population, the high- and middle-income countries of Europe, North America, and industrialized Asia contribute 58% of the world’s crop waste, ”he says.
A serious problem that is usually minimized
The person in charge of the Sustainable Food program has criticized that despite the fact that it has been known for years that food waste “is a serious problem also on the field, it is usually minimized”. In that sense, he adds that the report shows that “possibly greater than thought” and that if one takes into account that almost 800 million people around the world go hungry, the environmental impact must be added “this social emergency .”
“The data is alarming: enough food is wasted to feed the whole world until 2050. We could feed all the hungry people on the planet more than seven times,” says the expert.
For his part, Pete Pearson, head of WWF’s Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste, recalls that the pandemic has worsened waste by causing “massive disruptions in supply chains, forcing contract cancellations, restaurant closures and leaving large amounts of perishable food wasted or left on farms that were later useless.”
In WWF’s view, to achieve a significant reduction in food waste, governments and market players must take steps to support farmers around the world and commit to halving food waste at all stages. of the supply chain.
Although rates vary across regions and farming systems, the case study research observed an average of 10% waste rate at the farm stage in Pakistan and India. Taking this as a representative, this equates to over 41 million tonnes of rice waste each year in South and Southeast Asia alone. This level of waste is driven by numerous on-farm practices such as choice of rice variety, use of poor quality of rice seed, poor agricultural practices, and the timing and method of harvesting and threshing.
However, this in turn is driven by market demands and behaviours: for example, choosing cultivars that are better suited for the region or land could drive down waste rates, but farmers’ selections are influenced by financial necessity and market demand for specific types of rice, such as basmati.