Around 1.6 billion tonnes of food is wasted – FAO report

ROME— As the world marks the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, around 1.6 billion tonnes of the primary product equivalent is wasted, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations estimates.

Of this number, 1.3 billion tonnes, representing 81 percent is edible, the FAO said in its Food Wastage Footprint and Impact on Natural Resources report.

“Food wastage’s carbon footprint is estimated at 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent of GHG released into the atmosphere per year” the FAO added in the report published on its website adding that “The total volume of water used each year to produce food that is lost or wasted (250km3) is equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River, or three times the volume of Lake Geneva.”

Similarly, the report said 1.4 billion hectares of land – 28 percent of the world’s agricultural area – is used annually to produce food that is lost or wasted.

According to the report, agriculture is responsible for a majority of threats to at-risk plant and animal species tracked by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The report said a low percentage of all food wastage is composted and that much of it ends up in landfills, and represents a large part of municipal solid waste resulting in Methane emissions, one of the largest sources of GHG emissions from the waste sector.

“Developing countries suffer more food losses during agricultural production, while in middle- and high-income regions, food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher. The direct economic consequences of food wastage (excluding fish and seafood) run to the tune of $750 billion annually,” the report said.

In this regard, a research Scientist at the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Institute of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), Dr. Stella Agyeman Duah, has asked that the quality of food produced in the country should not be compromised.

In a statement in ACCRA, she said causes of food loss and waste could not only be attributed to post-harvest losses but warm or humid environments which promote insect, pest, and microorganism infestation.

In her view, consumer rejection due to aesthetic defects of produce especially fruits and vegetables is equally high in developed countries contributing to food loss.

“In reducing these challenges, shortening the food supply chain, and promoting food security, the standards of food produce should not be compromised,” Dr Duah said in an article to mark the day.

Governments’ investment at the local level to reduce food losses and waste, she said, must be visible and reflective in the farmers’ lives.

To this end, Dr Duah said the global trend of food insecurity in the world should necessitate the provision of storage facilities like silos by governments for staples to avoid glut in bumper seasons.

“On the part of consumers, it is important to promote planetary health by making a shopping list and buying what is needed. Consumers who decide to shop in bulk should be sure of adequate storage in their homes. It is kind to share leftovers with the needy. Do not throw them away, it contributes to global warming,” she advised.