Saturday, January 19, 2013

Plate full food ends up in Landfill

A survey by University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Bangalore says that  annually, Bangalore alone wastes 943 tonnes of quality food during weddings and the total food wastage in the city is estimated at Rs 339 crores. As per data from the solid waste management department of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), around 140 tonnes of leftover food is collected daily from the hotels and restaurants in the city which nearly 50 percent is good to consume. India is facing the loss of Rs.50,000 crores worth of food items.  United states, the food waste worth is $180 billion every year, Canada's food waste is approximately 40 percent and worth of $27 billion, around 5.3 million tonnes of food waste goes to trash in UK that's worth is £12 billion, the food wasted in Italy can feed the entire population of Ethiopia. The FAO estimates  that more than 30% of the global food production goes to garbage that counts 1.3 billion tonnes which can cater to 3 billion people.

Food waste can be occurred in three levels 1. Farm level ,2. Distribution level, 3. End user level.

The major food waste happens in the farm level. Before harvesting, the crop losses could be with  pest, birds, rodents and wild animals and the natural disasters also can cause for crop damages. Losses may be high in harvesting process since the machine harvesters are unable to detect the difference between ripen and half grown crops and also it collect some part of the crop and the rest will be left in the field itself. Some crops like horticulture produces must be harvested by hand picking only, then some root crops may damaged  by careless hand harvesting and acute labor shortage lead to the yield loss as crops are not harvested and decayed in the fields.

At the distribution level, supply chain & value chain losses are very frequent due to lack of storage facilities, no proper transportation and unable to access the markets on policy issues. A nation-wide study on quantitative assessment of harvest and post harvest losses for 46 agricultural produces in 106 randomly selected districts was conducted by CIPHET in 2010 revealed that wastage in fruits and vegetables is between 5.8 - 18.0 % for different crops. Wastage are lower for other items as compared to fruits & vegetable: for crop (3.9 -6.0%), cereals (4.3-6.1%), pulses (4.3-6.1% ), oilseeds (6.0%), Meat (2.3%), fish (2.9% ) and poultry(3.7%). Although the food stored in proper facilities, some portion get waste by the pests and microorganisms, supermarkets always reject the produces for slight cosmetic imperfection though they met the edible standards. Retail stores, farmers markets and whole sellers are losing huge amounts in unsold fruits and vegetables, we can't ignore the export losses in food products since they don't meet the agriculture, safety and health standards. Altogether, a significant quantity of food produced goes waste during the processes of pre & post harvesting, supply & value chain.

Food waste can be seen everywhere in our daily life, in kitchen at home, restaurants, in big fat weddings, gala parties, in work place canteens  and so on. Some social behaviors have lead to food waste like cooking surplus food, ordering excess food in the restaurants, load-up the plates with more than sufficient items in buffet. Once in a while when we check our refrigerator, we may find some leftovers and uneaten food that ends up in the trash can. Super markets promotion sales also push the consumers to buy more than enough food and which is frequently throw away.

Waste happens in throughout the food system in all stages like farming,  transportation, processing, distribution, supermarkets, restaurants, food service providers and  households which accounts  around 40% of the food we produce.

Recycling and disposal expenses are additional burden to the food waste, all uneaten food ends up in our landfills which generates green house gas emissions and it is estimated that 14% of the world’s CO2 emissions are caused by food waste itself. This huge waste of food puts heavy pressure on agriculture as it must provide for growing  population that is wasting up to 2 billion tonnes of food a year. Agriculture consumes  70% of water reserves in the process of food production, 3000 liters of water required for our daily food needs, management of water is the key for our food production and water is going to be more expensive in future. One more important issue is land usage, if we lose the food with wasteful habits  the demand will be increased for extensive usage of  land for farming and livestock. The food waste has ripple effects on other industries like energy, fertilizers and pesticides which are produced by coal, chemicals, fuel, natural gas and so on, all these incremental cost is driven by uneaten food.

Wasting a food is a cultural habit, by not wasting food we can express ourselves as well mannered and responsible. The most important thing is... to buy only whatever our actual need and use it completely. The super markets should liberalize their purchase practices  i.e. rejecting the food stocks for just small flaws in physical characteristics. Government should set a national goal to reduce the waste and sensitize the public against the waste of food by creating awareness and should encourage the NGOs who are working against food waste. Modern engineering and technologies should be implemented in  Pre/Post harvesting stages and fully integrated infrastructure should be created for transport, storage and processing. Elimination of  food waste will provide a lot more food for growing population, it reduces the carbon foot print and mitigates the heavy load on agriculture.