Reducing food waste across global food chains

Susan Smith via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Worldwide, massive amounts of food are wasted and in this policy brief, the SIANI Expert Group “Food Waste Prevention Strategies for Global Food Chains” identifies what can be done to decrease and avoid food waste. Reducing food waste is a way to feed more people without increasing production, with lower use of fossil fuels as well as lower pressure on water & land. And save a lot of money.

In this policy brief, the SIANI Expert Group “Food Waste Prevention Strategies for Global Food Chains” focuses on the global dimension of food waste. The brief identifies the impacts of actions and choices related to food import (particularly fruit and vegetables) in high-income countries have on producers in poorer countries. The study also presents several solutions directed towards different parts of the food chain; from technical improvements such as packaging, to suggestions for policy actions. The brief addresses the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under Goal 12.3, “Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”. The SDGs target is to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels by 2030, and reduce losses along production and supply chains.

Food waste and losses occur because of many reasons. In high-income countries, most waste occurs among retailers and consumers; while in low-income countries the transports from farms cause most of the waste. Scientific studies identified five categories of food waste drivers: inherent characteristics, social factors and dynamics, individual behaviours and expectations, conflicting priorities, and structural problems. All of the five drivers deserve action, but resolving structural problems is a great opportunity for optimising the use of available technologies, identifying organisational inefficiencies of supply chain operators as well as inefficient legislation, and increasing awareness to change consumer behaviours.

There are many actions that can be taken to decrease food waste. Policy-makers in high-income countries have a key role to play in collaborating with food supply chain actors in addressing the different drivers of food waste. Another key priority is to facilitate communication between different parts of the supply chain, to identify and address problems in one part that cause waste somewhere else. It is also suggested to facilitate and enable education and training, better infrastructure, and technology implementation, in particular when trading with developing countries and poor farmers. All in all, with increased collaboration, communication, and transparency among stakeholders it is possible to create more sustainable food consumption and production patterns, in line with SDG 12.3.

Download the SIANI Policy brief here.