“Nobody wants to admit or think that they are the problem”
This comment from Brian Roe, the director of Ohio State Food Waste Collaborative has hit the right chord.
You may wonder what we are saying?
Do not worry. We will clear it for you.
As per a survey, 76-86% of people believe that they waste less food than the average American.
We all know that food waste has social, ecological, and economic impacts, and there are solutions available too, to tackle this issue.
But have you ever thought about the root cause of it?
Why does 1/3rd of food produced is wasted every year globally, despite several awareness campaigns?
What does food waste mean to us as a part of the food supply chain?
We are sure, these thoughts might have hardly occurred to you. That is why we are here to have a genuine conversation about it.
So, let's begin with food production. There is no doubt that India is blessed with agricultural wealth. In 2020-2021, India is expected to produce 305.4 million tonnes of grain!
But, despite this achievement, India is failing to feed its population. According to the FAO 2019 report, around 14.5% of Indians are underfed.
So, where are we losing track?
As per experts, the prime reason for this disparity boils down to the wastage of agricultural food.
At the production level, you may face food loss in two forms:
- The food that is grown but remains unharvested, and
- The food that is lost between harvest and retail
But, as an agriculturist or farmer, is there anything that you can do?
Surely there is. And it begins with having a different perspective towards food loss and waste. Food waste at the farm level indeed takes place because of factors that are not in your control, such as:
- Poor weather conditions
- Fluctuating market trends or consumer demands, and
- Non-availability of efficient logistics and infrastructure
However, what if you decide to take certain actions and determine to reduce the waste from your end?
In our opinion, you can do it by teaming up with other enthusiastic experienced, and/or younger farmers and share the knowledge about
- the marketing opportunities of different crops and planning the cropping accordingly. This would help in reducing the crops that remain unharvested or unsold because of the lack of market demands
- Studying the effect of weather on the growth of crops and planning for harvesting, storage, and other infrastructure accordingly
These tiny steps can result in a positive outcome in reducing food wastage at the farm level, what do you think?
After the production and processing comes the distribution process. The harvested agricultural products, manufactured processed foods are supplied to the retailers by the food distributors.
But unfortunately, 75% of the food wastage occurs before it reaches the retailers.
Yes, you read that right.
So, it indicates that the food distributors can play a major role in reducing food wastage as much as possible.
If you are a distributor, you must realize that supplying food to the retailers is just a part of your responsibility. The most crucial part lies in maintaining the food products safely until it reaches the retail stores and hence reducing food wastage.
But, how can you achieve it?
By implementing the following:
- Understanding the customer trends/demands from retailers and then planning the purchase of food products (this would stop products from going unsold and wasted )
- Proper warehouse facilities for different products (to stop wastage due to spoilage)
- FIFO (First-in-First-Out) method in supplying the products.
If gradually food distributors begin to take these actions against food loss, wouldn’t it take less time to bring the change?
After the food gets distributed to retail stores, the customers can purchase them and consume it. But even though foods are fit for consumption, they end up in landfills.
This is the harsh reality! But as a retailer, if you want to reduce food waste, then firstly you should consider it as a critical issue.
This change in the perception will make you keep a track of food waste regularly. And this would give you an idea about:
- The consumers’ purchase behavior
- The type of foods that go unsold and why
- The amount of purchasing required for the upcoming batch
If these factors are monitored, there would be less food going into the food wastage bins at the retail level.
And from these retail shops food reaches the households. But, the story of food wastage doesn’t stop here. Shockingly, 61% of the global food wastage comes from households!
And one of the reasons why it happens is: the consumers do not want to agree or maybe don't realize that they waste food. That’s why Mr. Brian Roe had stated the comment that we mentioned at the beginning of this blog.
At an individual level, your food wastage may seem negligible. But, if we add on the wastage from everyone who has a similar perception like you, it would result in a higher rate of food wastage.
We, as consumers, are failing to see the larger picture. When we waste food, whether it is because of over-buying or improper storage, it is not just the wastage of food. It involves the wastage of all resources ( land, water, labor, energy, and capital) that go into the production of that particular food.
That is why your mindset is the key. Whether you are a farmer, processor, distributor, retailer, or consumer, be thoughtful about food waste. Question yourself, ‘was this food wastage avoidable?’
So, are you ready to bring the change?