By Anna Diofasi, Humanitas Global
The FAO, in partnership with Asian Institute of Technology, launched its “Save Food Asia-Pacific Campaign” earlier this week during the two-day High-Level Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Food Losses and Food Waste in Asia and the Pacific Region in Bangkok, Thailand.
The initiative aims to reduce post-harvest losses as well as consumer-level food waste, which has been rising in the Asia-Pacific region for the past decades. During the High-Level Consultation, over 130 participants from 20 countries worked together to determine how to reduce the amount of food lost to spoilage and spillage from the beginning to the end of the food supply chain.
In medium- and high-income countries, consumers are the primary source of food waste, discarding large amounts of edible products. In contrast, in developing countries most food is lost before it evens reaches the consumer due to limitations in infrastructure, storing, processing, and marketing technology. About 286lbs of food per person per year is estimated to go to waste in the South & Southeast Asian region with about 90% of the loss originating from post-harvest and processing levels.
At the same time, the Asia-Pacific region is home to 536 million hungry people, or 62 percent of the world's undernourished. In China alone, some 35 million tonnes of grain (about 13% of the total) are lost during storage, processing and distribution annually and 2.5% is lost as household waste. India’s food waste record is even more worrying: more than 40% of food, valued at over $8 billion, is lost due to inefficient post-harvest management and lack of sufficient storage and processing infrastructure.
The Save Food Asia-Pacific Campaign follows in the footsteps of existing food waste-reduction efforts by the FAO and the UN, such as the SAVE FOOD initiative and its accompanying Think.Eat.Save campaign, which provides easy-to-implement steps for reducing food waste to consumers while also garnering increased industry participation.
Food losses are a serious problem for the global food supply chain and waste reduction holds enormous potential for combatting hunger. FAO estimates that just a one-quarter reduction in the food wasted or lost globally, it would be sufficient to feed the 870 million people suffering from chronic hunger across the world. M.S. Swaminathan, World Food Prize Laureate and keynote speaker at the High-Level Consultation, emphasized that "Food waste is also a waste of natural resources like land and water. To a great extent, food losses and waste are symbolic of the inefficiencies of food systems" and this explains "why food losses and waste are becoming so central to discussions on both food security and sustainable development."
A set of recommendations on reducing food waste in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to be released at the end of the Consultation.