Have you ever got really greedy and taken too much to eat? Have you ever seen a discount on those lovely mangoes and thought I might as well store up? Have you ever cooked a disproportionate amount for a small gathering? What did you do when your stomach couldn’t take more or when the mangoes went all rotten? What did you do with the leftovers at the dinner party? Maybe you ate some the next day and the day after, but what after that? You threw it away, didn’t you?
Do you know what happened to that food?
It went to utter waste, 1.3 billion tonnes of it! This is equivalent to losses of $197.7 billion only for the U.S. The world has more than 800 million hungry people, yet we are content with wasting amounts that could feed all the hungry in the world.
With 1.3 billion tonnes of annual food waste or 30% of the world food production, the issue of excess food is now proving to be paramount. Instead of being given to the poor, the food is being thrown away which has now become a matter of economic concern. The G20 summit held in Istanbul saw various agricultural ministers agree that the extensive food waste crisis is a significant global economic, environment and societal problem of mammoth proportions. According to a study carried out by the UN, the surplus food produced every year, if made available to the poor can feed 870 million hungry lives.
According to the summit, ‘intensifying pressure’ on the resources and biodiversity puts greater pressure on food security. In the US, the economic loss on account of wastage of food is equivalent to $197.7 billion, says a report by Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN). Moreover, it is estimated that if things continue at this perilous rate by the year 2030 world consumer food wastage will cost a staggering $600 million per year.
Food wastage occurs on account of several interlinked reasons, which range from economic to technological issues. Issues with regard to storage are a major concern. Huge amounts of food get wasted due to lack of cold storages, clean places to storage, lack of care during rains etc. India wastes Rs. 44,000 crore worth of food every year –a major contributor to this is lack of proper storage. Damage to products while being transported is another concern. Moreover, inefficient staff are unable to treat the food with the care require which often leads to spoilage of food. The supply mechanism is lengthy, inefficient and not adequate to ensure safe transfer of the food items. There are a lot of middle men involved in the process. Due to the fact that the food changes several hands over a long period of time it suffers from spoilage. Inefficient packaging is another issue we face. Food which are not packed in accordance with the safety and health regulations undergo spoilage faster –having a shorter shelf life. India loses huge sums on money due to food wastage which would otherwise have been a boon for the economy.
Apart from the economic concerns regarding food wastage, the environmental issues are also alarming. The surplus food takes up a major chunk of the land. It has been reported that ‘produced but uneaten food’ occupies 30% of the world’s agricultural land. Moreover, an unnecessary pressure is put on the world’s resources in terms of food, water, fish, meat etc. 3.3 tonnes per year is the amount of carbon footprint produced due to uneaten produced food.
It is essential that steps be taken to prevent further food wastage. Accurate means of measurement and forecasting should be inculcated into the system such that one can get a rough estimate of food required. Policies and safeguards should be implemented to ensure proper transport and storage of food items. Moreover, a mechanism should be put in that distributes the surplus food to the poor. We can follow simple steps to use food effectively. This could be not buying more than what we require, cooking approximately the right amount etc. Let us not waste food when there are millions struggling to earn enough for two square meals a day.