Food is a great source of sustenance and the world is believed to produce about 4 billion metric tonnes per annum. A shocking fact is that approximately 30-50% of the entire food produced fails to get to a human stomach.
Four Touchpoints in food wastage
Food waste occurs at different phases in the production and consumption journey. The four stages for which food wastage occurs are poor techniques in harvesting, transportation, storage and consumer wastage.
Meeting Food waste where it happens
A study carried out by the institution of mechanical engineers revealed different scenarios where food waste occurs. Each population group has its unique activities that contribute to food waste.
- Fully developed/post-industrial societies: In mature economies, where there are efficient farming techniques, proper storage and adequate processing facilities, food in most cases reach the consumer or market. In this scenario or economy, a higher proportion of food wastage is as a result of retail and consumer behaviour. Families in the UK, for example, are believed to be wasting or chucking about 24 meals a month. The food waste in the United Kingdom alone adds up to about 4.2 million tonnes a year.
- Late-stage developing countries: Nations that are currently on the industrialization journey like China are experiencing decelerating levels of population growth and increasing wealth. These countries will also experience food wastage due to the behaviours of retailers and consumers.
- Newly developing countries: These are countries that are at an early stage of the industrialisation process. For these nations, food wastage tends to occur at every touchpoint such as techniques in harvesting, transportation, storage and consumer wastage.
Food wastage and its impact on Finite resources
The wastage of food tends to have negatively impacted upon finite resources like land, water and energy usage.
Effective Land Utilization: The institute of mechanical engineers stated that improving farming techniques would help to improve crop yields, reduce food wastage at the harvesting stage and increase the farmland utilisation by 12%.
Water Usage: Approximately 40% of the world’s food supply is believed to be realised from irrigated land. Water used for irrigation is believed to be done in an unsustainable manner. Going forward, effective washing procedures, recycling and purification is believed to help in the reduction of water wastage.
Energy Consumption: It is argued that about 7-10 calories of input are needed for the production of a calorie of food. Three calories of energy are required for plant crops and 35 for beef. In the age of industrialisation, there is a higher demand for energy in the agricultural and storage process. Energy is required for the power machinery on the farm lands, processing plants and storage units.
In the face of rising population, sophisticated nutritional standards and altering dietary requirements; food production is set to increase. While food production is expected to rise, there is a clarion call for a change in behaviour for retailers and consumers.
Globally, retailers are believed to generate about 1.6 million tonnes of food waste annually, which negatively impacts upon finite resources like water, energy and land. To get things on the right track, there has to be an improvement in the technique and behaviour at all four touchpoints like harvesting techniques, transportation, storage and consumer/retailer behaviour.
Image credit: The Guardian