ndia has about 48 million children affected by stunted growth below the age group of five. The World Economic Forum cautions about the food shortages that it is likely to cause one of the biggest risks to global stability over the next decade due to extreme risks posed by climate change. However, even though the world produces enough food to feed twice the world’s present population, food wastage can be identified as one of the main contributors behind the billions of people who remain malnourished.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 1.3 billion tonnes of food is being wasted annually. The FAO report states that one-third of the total global food production is wasted, costing the world economy about $750 billion or `47 lakh crore. This increase in food wastage is alarming. Food wastage as an issue has risen globally. According to a report by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 40% of the food goes uneaten in the US, whereas in Asia, India and China loses 1.3 billion tonnes of food to wastage every year. According to a recent study conducted by Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata, only 10% of food items get cold storage facility in India and this factor accompanied by inappropriate supply chain management, has resulted in India wasting a significant amount of cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables in pre and post-harvest seasons. Nearly 21 million tonnes of wheat are wasted in India each year.
Nonetheless, the resources which are lost in the form of inputs during food production are also considerable. If 25% of fresh water is used to produce food, it is ultimately wasted, even as millions of people don’t have access to drinking water. Besides, around 45% of India’s land is degraded due to deforestation, unsustainable agricultural practices, and excessive groundwater extraction to meet the food demand. The actual worth of money per year in India from food wastage is estimated at a whopping `58,000 crore. A recent study predicts that emissions associated with food waste could increase further. Hence, the message for World Food Day, observed on October 16, was that “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too”.
Meeting the food needs of a growing population in India (1.7 billion by 2050) while reducing food loss and waste poses a serious challenge. Wasting a kilogramme of wheat and rice would mean wasting 1,500 and 3,500 litres of water respectively that goes into their production. Globally, almost 250 litres of water and 1.4 billion hectares of land are devoted to producing food that is lost or wasted.
The countless efforts made by the government to curb food wastage in India have merely gone in vain. The depth of the issue is so intense that the efforts have hardly been able to scratch the surface. To avoid wastage of food, the government should primarily improve the storage facilities that are currently 50% less than required. Seeking examples from the global practices, the government must focus on affordable and advanced food processing technologies to encourage food preservation practices. For instance, France has passed unanimous legislation requiring supermarkets to either give unsold food to charity or send it to farmers for use as feed and fertiliser. Institutions in Canada are recovering unused and unspoiled food from retailers, manufacturers, restaurants and caterers and sending them to charities and thereby delivering ingredients for over 22,000 meals daily. Eco-friendly and healthy food preservation applications should be invented to aid in enhanced food preservation.