Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Capitalism's Wasted Food

A combination of causes, ranging from harvesting and handling practices, to lack of infrastructure and market prices to pests, diseases and climatic conditions, contributed to farmers around the world are losing up to 20% of the food they produce every year.  The widely-cited figure estimated about a third of the world's food - about 1.3 billion tonnes - was lost or wasted annually includes estimates for losses along the whole supply chain, according to the FAO.

 This "means that land and water resources have been wasted, pollution created and greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted to no purpose", said FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu.

Central and southern Asia have the highest level of food losses of 20% followed by northern America and Europe at more than 15%. Australia and New Zealand have the lowest at about 6%. The findings show losses of one in four roots, tubers and oil-bearing crops, such as cassava and potatoes, and more than one in five fruits and vegetables, but less than 10% in cereals and pulses.

Cutting these losses on the farm could increase food availability for small-scale farmers in low-income countries who might also make money selling the surplus, but a glut in produce could depress prices as well as demand, the report warned.

Making air-conditioned storage available in rural locations without proper roads or electricity would take time but others might only require small adjustments, said the FAO's Assistant Director-General Maximo Torero Cullen.

For example in Ghana, switching from conventional bags to triple-layer bags with an air-tight seal can protect cassava chips and maize from insects and fungus, according to Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute.

New technologies could also help such as a plant-based coating that comes in powder form and, when applied with water, can double the shelf life of fruits and vegetables without refrigeration.

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