A quantity of wheat equivalent to the entire production of Australia goes to waste each year in India, according to a new report on global food wastage.
Compiled by the Institution of Mechanical Researchers, the conclusions are especially damning towards India for the country’s glaring lack of infrastructure and food storage facilities. It found that as much as 50% of all food produced around the world never reaches human mouths.
"Considerably greater levels of tonnage loss exist in larger developing nations, such as India, for example, where about 21m tonnes of wheat annually perishes due to inadequate storage and distribution—equivalent to the entire production of Australia," the Global Food Waste Not Want Not report said.
"In neighbouring Pakistan, losses amount to about 16% of production, or 3.2m tonnes annually, where inadequate storage infrastructure leads to widespread rodent infestation problems," it added.
At least 40% of all fruit and vegetables is lost in India between the grower and consumer due to lack of refrigerated transport, poor roads, inclement weather and corruption.
Investment in logistics
According to the latest survey, wastage tends to move up the distribution chain as the standard of development improves and regional and national transport, storage and distribution facilities fail to match the improvements made at the farm level. Accordingly, India requires massive investments in the food logistics chain.
"Controlling and reducing the level of wastage is frequently beyond the capability of the individual farmer, distributor or consumer, since it depends on market philosophies, security of power supply, quality of roads and the presence or absence of transport hubs.
"These are all related more to societal, political and economic norms, as well as engineered infrastructure, rather than to agriculture," the authors of the report said, calling on the government to introduce better technology and food storage facilities.
The Indian government has maintained that the recent reforms in the retail sector to allow 51% foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail and 100% FDI in the single-brand segment, will lead to increased investments in infrastructure and improve the logistics chain.
Waste of resources
Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the IME, said: "The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world's growing population.
"It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food".
In the face of United Nations estimates of an extra 3 billion people to feed by the end of the century, the IME is calling for urgent action to tackle this waste
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