About one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.
This was revealed by Dr René Castro-Salazar, Assistant Director-General in charge of Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water Department at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
He was addressing a news conference in Kigali at the sidelines of a global conference that seeks to preserve and develop crops.
“We need to redesign the way food is redistributed in the world, especially in urban areas; because there is no reason why we cannot feed the people with hunger,” said Dr Castro.
“We are producing enough food today; it’s more a problem of distribution and how to store it and how to provide services, for example refrigeration services, for prolonging the life of some of the food,” he observed.
Such food losses and waste amounts to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialised countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries, according to data from FAO.
Global food losses and waste per year are roughly 30% for cereals, 40-50% for root crops, fruits and vegetables, 20% for oil seeds, meat and dairy, and 35% for fish.
In developing countries, 40% of losses occur at post-harvest and processing levels while in industrialised countries more than 40% of losses happen at retail and consumer levels, according to the global agriculture body.
Paul Rusingizandekwe grows tomatoes on over six hectares of land in Kagitumba valley in Nyagatare District, Eastern Province.
He said that the price of a 120 kilo basket of tomatoes is sold at between Rwf20,000 and Rwf40,000 in Kigali; but because the produce is very perishable, they sell it at lower.
“When there are many farmers producing tomatoes, they become rotten in the field because there is high produce. And when we transport tomatoes to Kigali for sale, we sell it at a giveaway price because we are afraid we might make bigger losses if they get decomposed,” he told The New Times on Tuesday.
He called for storage facilities which can allow them to safely keep their tomatoes, for say, two weeks as they wait for good prices.
Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labour and capital and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change.
“Even if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world,” FAO states.
The FAO report says that in 2016 the number of chronically undernourished people in the world was estimated to have increased to 815 million, up from 777 million in 2015, as per the 2017 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the world.
It attributed the rise in hunger to weather-related events – in part linked to climate change, and conflicts in some parts of the world, which have affected food availability in many countries and contributed to the rise in food insecurity.