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Dublin: 17 °C Friday 31 October, 2014

Why half of the world’s food goes to waste

Mechanical Engineers Institute explains wastage occurs both at farmer-producer end of food chain and consumer level.

Image: Jane Rix via Shutterstock

UP TO HALF of all the food produced each year goes to waste, according to a recent report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

It is estimated that 30–50 per cent (or 1.2–2 billion tonnes) of all food produced on the planet is lost before reaching a human stomach.

It’s also important to keep in mind that as all this food gets wasted, all the stuff that went into producing this food is also getting wasted.

“This figure does not reflect the fact that large amounts of land, energy, fertilisers and water have also been lost in the production of foodstuffs which simply end up as waste.”

So why is all this food getting wasted?

“In less-developed countries, such as those of sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia, wastage tends to occur primarily at the farmer-producer end of the supply chain. Inefficient harvesting, inadequate local transportation and poor infrastructure mean that produce is frequently handled inappropriately and stored under unsuitable farm site conditions.

As the development level of a country increases, so the food loss problem generally moves further up the supply chain with deficiencies in regional and national infrastructure having the largest impact.

(In developed countries) Major supermarkets, in meeting consumer expectations, will often reject entire crops of perfectly edible fruit and vegetables at the farm because they do not meet exacting marketing standards for their physical characteristics, such as size and appearance. For example, up to 30% of the UK’s vegetable crop is never harvested as a result of such practices. Globally, retailers generate 1.6 million tonnes of food waste annually in this way.

Of the produce that does appear in the supermarket, commonly used sales promotions frequently encourage customers to purchase excessive quantities which, in the case of perishable foodstuffs, inevitably generates wastage in the home. Overall between 30% and 50% of what has been bought in developed countries is thrown away by the purchaser.”

Very depressing.

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