Editorial | Food waste

Once upon a time, elders told children to finish everything on the plate and not to waste food as there were millions of children in the world going to bed hungry.

This taught us to be prudent in eating enough to assuage our hunger and that it is sacrilege to throw good food.

Times have changed. With more resources and choices available, conspicuous consumption has become the norm not only in highly industrialized countries but in developing economies as well. We are lured by bigger servings, upsized drinks, larger slices of food, name brands, everything that sparkles and glitters, so to speak.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has warned that food waste has become so prevalent that it could gravely affect food sustainability in the long run. The organization said that about one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.

Some facts are alarming: ‘Even if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.

‘Food losses during harvest and in storage translate into lost income for small farmers and into higher prices for poor consumers.

‘Food losses and waste amounts to roughly $680 billion in industrialized countries and $310 billion in developing countries.

‘Global quantitative food losses and waste per year are roughly 30% for cereals, 40 to 50% for root crops, fruits and vegetables, 20% for oil seeds, meat and dairy plus 35% for fish. Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.

For developing countries like our country, FAO said that food waste and losses occur during the early stages of the food value chain such as harvesting or processing facilities. We still dry our agricultural produce in basketball courts or on the side of the streets, we lack sufficient storage facilities, and agricultural infrastructure and support industry to help our farmers keep wastage to a minimum.

Our elders knew the weakness in our food value chain so when food is finally served on the table, they have to make each morsel count.

Posted in Opinion