[Sansad TV] Perspective: Food Loss & Waste

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Context

  • The International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste (IDAFLW) is being observed for the third time on 29 September 2022 with the theme ‘Stop Food Loss and Waste! For People and Planet.’
  • This day assumes huge importance due to the rising food insecurity across the globe.
  • Food loss and waste (FLW) is an important topic due to its high socioeconomic costs and its relationship to waste management and climate change challenges.

Worldwide Food Loss and Waste (FLW)

  • According to the United Nations Environment Programme, an estimated 14 percent of the world’s food is lost between harvest and retail.
  • Moreover, an estimated 17 per cent is wasted in retail and at the consumption level.
  • This food loss and waste accounts for 8-10 per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • As the data suggests that approx 4 to 5 lakhs people die without food every year and this includes the dependent population of the country as well.

What is Food Loss and Waste?

food-waste
  • Food loss and waste is food that is not eaten.
  • The causes of food waste or loss are numerous and occur throughout the food system, during production, processing, distribution, retail and food service sales, and consumption.

Why should we discuss this?

  • Pre-consumption Losses: Nearly 40% of the food produced in India is wasted every year due to fragmented food systems and inefficient supply chains.
  • Post-harvest damages: India does incur huge losses due to post-harvest damages. Economic cost of post-harvest loss is nearly 926.51 bn INR as per a 2014 study.
  • Rotting in godowns: In the wake of the lockdown imposed last year, surplus stocks of grain — pegged at 65 lakh tonnes in the first four months of 2020 — continued to rot in godowns across India.
  • Huge share of GDP: It is about 0.6% of India’s GDP and two and a half times the Budget estimate of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.

FLW in India: Causes

There are some reasons which cause huge food waste of food in the country:

  • Food habits: First is that India is a nation where maximum foods are spicy and the reason for them to get rot very early.
  • Cultural issues: The culture of our nation, let’s not take it otherwise but we can can’t deny that the wedding functions causes large amount of food waste.
  • Household losses: The data on food wastage at the retail and household levels is at the nascent stage. 
  • Replacement of manures: Chemical fertilizers has replaced the organic one which is a big replacement of leftover wastes.
  • Logistics: Uneven transportation and warehousing is another factor for FLW.

Why is it important to reduce food loss and waste?

  • Prevalence of hunger: If more food is wasted, then the remaining food is available at higher prices. This excludes many people from accessing quality food owing to poor socio-economic conditions.  
  • Sustainability of food system: Food loss and waste undermine the sustainability of our food systems. When food is lost or wasted, all the resources that were used to produce this food – including water, land, energy, labour and capital – go to waste.
  • Emissions by FLW: In addition, the disposal of food loss and waste in landfills, leads to greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change.
  • Food insecurity: Food loss and waste can also negatively impact food security and food availability, and contribute to increasing the cost of food.

Steps taken by India

  • SDG commitment: Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 talks about halving food loss and waste by 2030. It also talks about halving the food loss in production and supply chains.
  • Institutional research: India has been systematically estimating food loss since 1968 and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research has also conducted several studies and quantified the loss at certain levels.
  • NITI Aayog moves: Ashok Dalwai Committee has suggested various interventions that go beyond the supply chain in the report to double farmer’s income by 2025.
  • SAMPADA Scheme: Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters was launched in 2016.  One of the core components of the scheme involves developing an integrated cold chain and value addition infrastructure.
  • National Food Security Act, 2013: It places an obligation on the government to deliver quality food at affordable prices to the poor. This places an indirect obligation on the government to reduce food wastage.

Way forward

  • Inducing behavior change: Public needs to be sensitized as the food resources belong to the community irrespective of their individual financial capacity. Nobody has the right to waste limited food (or any other resources).
  • Food Banking: There are examples of many NGO-run food banks where leftover food is collected and shared to the needy.
  • Boosting local supply chains: This should be optimized to reduce post-harvest and transportation losses.
  • Prevention: Last but not the least. Prevention of food losses is far better than mitigation.

Conclusion

  • Our food systems cannot be resilient if they are not sustainable, hence the need to focus on the adoption of integrated approaches designed to reduce food loss and waste.
  • Actions are required globally and locally to maximize the use of the food we produce.
  • The introduction of technologies, innovative solutions, new ways of working, and good practices to manage food quality and reduce food loss and waste are key to implementing this transformative change.

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