The world loses about $400 billion of food before it even gets delivered to stores, according to the United Nations.
Some 14% of all food produced is lost annually, with central and southern Asia, North America and Europe accounting for the biggest shares, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report, citing the latest data as of 2016. Better cold storage and infrastructure would help reduce losses, but more detailed data on the supply chain is needed to tackle the problem, it said.
Food wastage is drawing increased scrutiny because of the contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and as more than 820 million people are estimated to go hungry each day. World leaders have pledged to try to halve global food waste at retail and consumer levels by 2030 and reduce food production losses. Companies are also trying to improve efficiency in the food industry.
“Losing food implies unnecessary pressure on the environment and the natural resources that have been used to produce it in the first place,” Qu Dongyu, director general of the Rome-based FAO, said in the report. “It essentially means that land and water resources have been wasted, pollution created and greenhouse gases emitted to no purpose.”
Consumers also squander huge amounts. As much as 37% of animal products and potentially a fifth of fruit and vegetables may be wasted after being purchased, according to the FAO. Rich nations have higher levels of waste due to limited shelf life or poor consumer planning, while poorer countries typically grapple with climate and infrastructure issues.
Reducing the world’s food losses and waste is a challenge because more information is needed in order to take effective action, the FAO said. Still, adequate cold storage in particular can be crucial, as well as good infrastructure and trade logistics. Boosting farm productivity through research and development has been found to be more cost-effective than curbing post-harvest losses, it said.
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