From the food that spoils in the fridge to the harvests that rot in the fields, the world is losing too much food. Every year, more than 1.3 billion tons of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. At the same time, nearly a billion people go hungry, even as the world population is set to reach 9 billion by 2050, from 7 billion at present. If left unaddressed, this problem will get worse.
What causes food waste?
In the developed world, consumption patterns are a large contributor. Food is lost at the retail stage, where many stores have strict quality standards that include appearance. They dispose of ‘ugly’ food. And yes, back at home, food is wasted when the toddler screams for chocolate instead of puréed spinach, which ends up in the bin. Dinner plates are scraped into the trash, and leftovers in the office fridge are left forgotten for days.
Elsewhere, food is often wasted through poor transport, storage, processing and packaging. Sometimes the facilities simply don’t have the capacity to process or store large amounts of food.
Meanwhile, small, independent farmers grow large proportions of the food in many supply chains in developing countries. It’s difficult for them to predict and prepare for weather conditions and market fluctuations when planting crops. To be safe, farms end up harvesting more crops than necessary. Without support from larger organizations, they are unable to access the markets for their produce.
In summary, food wastage can happen at various stages along the supply chain: from initial production through to processing, retailing, and household consumption. The loss may be accidental or intentional, but ultimately it means less food available for all.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines food waste as the decrease of food in subsequent stages of the supply chain. In other words, food intended for our consumption is going to waste.
Some Key Facts
The global food waste statistics are staggering…
- North Americans waste 5 814 000 tons of roots and tubers during the consumption stage alone
- Every year, the world wastes almost half of all the fruits and vegetables it produces
- Some 22% of the global production of oilseeds and pulses is lost/wasted
- Industrialized countries throw away 286 million tons of cereal products
The solutions and what we are doing about it
The impact of food waste on both developed and developing regions is enormous, with the effects reaching far beyond the agriculture industry.
From awareness raising and educational campaigns through to major changes in the supply chain, a lot can be done to improve the current state of affairs.
And while today we are far from solving the problem for good, everybody agrees that a joint effort, from farmers and producers through to the consumers, will bring about the needed changes.
At LDC, we’re working to meet the growing global food demand and looking for ways to prevent waste along the way. We continually invest to improve efficiencies in our processing systems. Improvements to technology and equipment also play a role, together with reduced time and distances transporting our product to their end use.
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