Food loss and waste is a major issue in the Asia and Pacific region and coordinated, strategic actions are needed to address the impact it is having on climate change, food security, and the region’s overall economy. This was the conclusion of 18 Member countries during a virtual consultation convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) during a two-day series of discussions.
According to FAO’s most recent estimates (2019), the amounts of food either lost or wasted range from 5–6 percent in Australia and New Zealand, to 20 – 21 percent in Central and Southern Asia. Globally, food losses and food waste represent nearly a quarter of all blue water used in agricultural production and approximately USD 940 billion in economic losses.
“The Asia and Pacific Region continues to lose and waste too much food. Government and non-state actors, working together, must deliver on Sustainable Development Goal 12, which aims to halve global food waste at the retail and consumer levels, and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses by 2030,” said Anthony Bennett, FAO Senior Food Systems Officer at the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.
COVID-19 has contributed to regional food losses – but solutions are becoming clearer
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted existing gaps in food systems that lead to food loss and waste, such as unreliable infrastructure for storage and transportation, and access to electricity. The region also faces challenges in terms of logistics for local producer-to-consumer markets and scaling-up of networks for recovery and redistribution of safe and nutritious food for human consumption. Food losses and food waste from all food systems leads to an increase in Greenhouse Gasses.
Food losses also impact heavily on smallholders who rely on their produce for both their livelihoods and their families’ food security. However, food security can be improved through reduction of food losses, particularly on small farms in low-income countries. These reductions can help farmers improve their own diets due to increased food availability and gain higher incomes when selling part of their produce.
China’s clean your plate campaign
Indeed some FAO Members in the Asia and Pacific region have taken numerous steps to scale-up measures to counter food loss and waste at the retail and consumer level – among them is China.
“Measures for food loss and waste reduction are being implemented in China. Public education activities such as ‘The Clean Your Plate Campaign’ are working very well to activate anti-food waste behavior. Food business operators are adapting their models to encourage consumers’ change of attitude toward food consumption with the support of technology,” said Zhang Chengzhi, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Storage Safety and Science, National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration of People’s Republic of China. “Less food loss from production to wholesale, and less food waste from retail to households, mean more income for consumers to spend on other purchases and more profit for involved businesses. It’s a win-win strategy that should involve all society.”
FAO’s Asia-Pacific Food Loss and Waste Strategy
Based upon a thorough literature review and appraisal of other regional approaches, new data and analysis on food loss and waste from China, Nepal and Thailand, FAO’s comprehensive Asia-Pacific Food Loss and Waste Strategy has five key pillars:
Pillar 1 Raise awareness and enable state and non-state collaborations and partnerships on food loss and waste prevention and reduction
Pillar 2 Identify and address food loss and waste critical points along supply chains and at consumer level
Pillar 3 Enable investments for food loss and waste prevention and reduction
Pillar 4 Monitor and facilitate national and regional progress towards SDG 12.3.1
Pillar 5 Support Asia-Pacific Member Countries towards coherent governance frameworks integrating or directly addressing food loss and waste prevention and reduction
Better data key to better measurements of loss and waste reductions
Participants in the regional consultation agreed that it is essential to improve measurement of food loss and waste, as well as data comparability, quality, and availability. Improved data supports prevention and reduction of human nutrition losses and impacts on climate change.
FAO’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific has also developed a roadmap for the implementation of its strategy to counter food loss and waste, based upon the direction of its Members. It will also continue to work with regional organizations, such as ASEAN, in developing, sharing, and applying better knowledge and practices on prevention and reduction of food loss and waste, on the production and distribution side as well as by consumers.