Food wastage is a major global problem that affects both developed and developing countries. In India, as well as in many other parts of the world, a significant amount of food is wasted every day, while millions of people suffer from hunger and malnutrition. This issue has severe economic, social, and environmental consequences and needs urgent attention.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), about one-third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted every year. This amounts to approximately 1.3 billion tons of food, which is enough to feed three billion people. In India alone, it is estimated that around 40% of the food produced is wasted.
A recent study conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University found that the percentage of edible food lost on the farm is closer to 42%, which is double the previous estimate of 20%. This study used a new method for measuring on-farm loss, which involved physically counting the vegetables left on the plant after the farmer decides to discontinue harvesting the field.
The produce was then separated into three categories:
- Edible but unmarketable
All of the above was taken into account while calculating the staggering data of 42% being wasted in the USA alone.
It should be noted that post-harvest loss has been a problem for a century, but it has not received as much focus as other forms of waste in food production. Therefore, the current estimates are significantly lower. This disparity in reports to earlier studies relying on grower surveys from smaller farms and approaches that only dealt with specific forms of loss instead of on-field measurements.
There are several reasons for food wastage in India and the world. One of the main reasons is inefficient food supply chains. In many developing countries, food often spoils during transportation due to poor infrastructure, lack of proper storage facilities, and inadequate packaging. Additionally, food is often discarded due to cosmetic imperfections, even if it is still edible.
Another significant cause of food wastage is consumer behavior. In developed countries, consumers often purchase more food than they need, resulting in a large amount of food being thrown away. Additionally, consumers tend to discard food that is still edible but has passed its expiration date, leading to unnecessary wastage.
The economic and social consequences of food wastage are severe. Wasting food leads to a significant loss of resources and money. In developing countries, farmers often struggle to earn a decent income due to low crop yields and market inefficiencies. Food wastage further exacerbates the problem by lowering market prices and reducing farmers’ income.
Food wastage also has social consequences, as it deprives people of basic necessities. Millions of people around the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition, and the wastage of food exacerbates this problem. In India, for example, food is wasted while millions of people go hungry. This is a particularly concerning issue given that India is home to one of the largest populations of hungry people in the world.
The environmental consequences of food wastage are also significant. The production of food requires large amounts of resources, such as water, land, and energy. When food is wasted, these resources are essentially wasted as well. Additionally, the wastage of food results in greenhouse gas emissions, as the food decomposes and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Reducing food wastage is a critical issue that requires action from all levels of society. Governments can play a significant role by implementing policies that promote sustainable food production and consumption. This can include measures such as investing in infrastructure to improve food storage and transportation, promoting sustainable farming practices, and reducing food waste in the supply chain.
At the individual level, consumers can make small changes to reduce food wastage. This can include buying only what is needed, planning meals in advance, and properly storing food to extend its shelf life. Additionally, consumers can learn to cook creatively with leftovers and use food scraps to make stocks and broths.
The food industry also has a significant role to play in reducing food wastage. This can include measures such as reducing the use of plastic packaging, implementing better inventory management systems, and donating excess food to food banks and other charities.
Facts & Figures about Food Wastage
- According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 1/3 of all food (1.3 Billion tonnes) is wasted around the world annually which is enough to feed 3 Billion people. The total cost of wasted food is $750 Billion (47 lacks Crore)
- India wastes as much as 92000 Crore worth of food which accounts for 7% of the total world’s wastage. These numbers are staggering when we think about a large portion of our population going hungry.
- According to UN Hunger Report, although the world produces enough food still 811 million people go hungry every day.
- According to UN Food Waste Index, 61% is wasted by households, 26% by food services, and 13% by retail.
- According to the Ministry of Agriculture, more than 50,000 Crore of food is wasted every year which nears 1% of the GDP of India.
- According to UN Food Waste Index, 40% of the total food is wasted in India which amounts to 92,000 Crore a year.
- Food wastage’s carbon footprint is 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 is produced every year by all the resources that were used to produce that food i.e. land, water, energy, labor, and capital.
- The total amount of food wasted in India every year is equal to the total amount of food consumed by the UK.
In conclusion, food wastage is a significant problem in India and the world. It has severe economic, social, and environmental consequences, and requires action from all levels of society. Governments, consumers, and the food industry all have a role to play in reducing food wastage and ensuring that everyone has access to adequate food. By working together, we can create a more sustainable and equitable food system for all.