As many poor countries face food
shortages and soaring food prices, much attention is being given to boosting
agricultural production. But a new report says just as much emphasis should be
placed on reducing the amount of food that is wasted each year, food worth
billions of dollars. VOA's Joe De Capua reports.
As many poor countries face food
shortages and soaring prices, much attention is being given to boosting
agricultural production. But a new report says emphasis should also be placed
on reducing the amount of food that is wasted each year, food worth billions of
From farms in developing countries
to kitchens in the United States and Europe, a lot of food ends up as garbage.
So says a report from the Stockholm International Water Institute.
Lead author Jan Lundqvist,
chairman of the institute's scientific committee, explains how food is wasted
at the very places where it's grown.
"That's due to poor harvesting
technologies. That's due to poor transport, storage, lack of cooling facilities
and such things. And that is a problem, which we think is predominantly the
case in the poorer parts of the world. So a large part of the food that is
produced by the farmers in the field is not reaching the market," he says.
In rich nations, food is generally
plentiful and affordable. As a result, leftovers after a meal are often
discarded. The report says in the United States, for example, 48 billion
dollars worth of food is thrown away each year.
"The wastage of food - the fact
that maybe primarily households are throwing away in the order of 25 percent,
or one-third, or something like that, of the food that they are buying. Most of
which is also perfectly fit for eating," he says.
But while Lundqvist talks about
wasted food, he also says huge amounts of water are being wasted as well. The
institute's report is entitled: Saving water: From Field to Fork – Curbing
Losses and Wastage in the Food Chain.
"All the food that is being produced,
either if it's eaten or thrown away, it has of course consumed water in
production," he says.
How much water? Well, consider the
amount used each year in irrigation systems around the world.
"Today, we use roughly 2,700 cubic
kilometers of water for irrigation purposes. If half of that food is being lost
or wasted, that means also that roughly 1300 cubic kilometers of water are also
wasted. If we can reduce that figure, if we can reduce wastage and losses, then
we would also reduce the pressure on irrigation systems<" he says.
If you're having trouble imagining
1300 cubic kilometers of water, it's equal to half the volume of Lake Victoria
in East Africa.
With current food shortages and
high prices in developing countries, there are increased calls for boosting
agriculture production. But the Stockholm International Water Institute report
says that addresses only half the issue. The head of the scientific program
"I think it is important to
improve production and productivity, for instance, in African countries because
they have a very low productivity today. But I think we have to go into the
future on two legs. We have to improve production in areas where it's possible
to increase production; and we have to make sure that we try to reduce losses
and wastage wherever that's possible," he says.
Among the report's recommendations
are improving harvesting technologies and better transport and storage for
farmers; innovative ways to capture rainfall; more efficient methods to process
food; raising awareness about wasting food or letting tap water run
unnecessarily; and better irrigation systems.
It also calls on policymakers,
consumers and the business community to get more involved in managing natural
resources and making food production much more efficient.