Why It is so Important to Reduce Waste in the Global Food Supply

Food wastage has become a very important issue this time. Its importance has been increasing during the last decades, owing to many factors, such as, the lack of natural resources, and the increase of the world population. As a result of this rise which will have exceeded nine billion people by the end of the first half of this century, FAO has predicted that there will be excessive growth in food production in the same period (Gunders, 2012: 19). This essay mainly focuses on consumption as a key reason for this dilemma, mostly, in developed countries. Initially, it will give a glance about the importance of this issue. The second part of the essay will cover the wasteful habit of consumers in some of the first world countries. Before its conclusion, the essay will discuss the increase of food price and public awareness as two possible solutions to decrease food wasted. Finally, it will conclude with a preferred solution.

The importance of food wastage seems to be due to four significant factors. The first one is related to an increase of the world population. The inhabitants of the world will increase, according to the United Nations’ prediction; there will be around nine and half billion people by the end of the third quarter of this century, which means more demand for food (Fox, 2013: 2). The second reason is that producing food consumes the earth’s finite resources. Food manufacturing is creating more need for the essential earth treasures such as land, water, and energy (Bond et al., 2013: 3). For instance, about three quarter of 3.8 trillion m3 of consumed water goes to the field of agriculture, and due to the need for more food this number is estimated to go up to 13 trillion m3 by 2050 (Fox, 2013: 3). The complex nature of wasted food and its powerful effect are the third factor that is likely to make it very important. Food waste appears to be very complicated to a level where it affects many different issues, which are social, economic, and environmental (FAO, 2013: 59). The last one of these four reasons is the excessive amount of wasted food, which mankind loses annually. Around a third up to half of four billion tons of produced food has been evaluated to be a wasted food each year (Fox, 2013: 25). These reasons prove the danger of food wastage, and the necessity for an action to reduce this waste.

Wasteful habit of consumers is almost certain to play a main role in food wastage and affects some other food supply chain elements. Around thirty to fifty percent of sold food in developed countries has been estimated to be a wasted food (Fox, 2013: 3). In addition to this, seventy five percent of wasted food in the United Kingdom is likely to be caused by consumers, and this can mean £11.8bn is lost per annum (Bond et al., 2013: 1). This huge amount of money that is lost annually seems to be a result to the cheapness of food prices. Food tends to be not valued much in Britain because it may does not cost the family more than eleven percent of its income (Fox, 2013: 23). Twenty percent of the purchased food in the UK becomes wasted food, and more than sixty percent could be avoided, if there is enough awareness. Consumers are almost certain to be one of the causes of food wastage during the harvest period, in an indirect way. A part of vegetable and fruit is not harvested because of market’s standard, which is probably yields to consumers’ desires, (Fox, 2013: 17). In addition to this, consumers appear to cause food wastage in market. Each food shop in the United States has been evaluated to lose average of $ 2300 of outdated food each day (Gunders, 2012: 10). Although it is legal to sell edible food after the suggested selling date in the majority of the states, the supermarkets do not offer such food, probably, due to the fear of affecting their reputation (Gunders, 2012: 10). This is likely to indicate that the market is reluctant to lose food due to the lack of consumers’ knowledge. The habit of consumers seems to play a main role in wasted food.

Rising food prices worldwide may decrease food wastage. Increasing food prices could lower food demand; thus it might reduce the production of food, and the outcome may be a decline in food wastage. The low price of food during the last years seems to have distracted investors, and raising the prices may encourage them to improve the food industry (Nellemann, 2009: 82). This will probably lessen food wastage that occurs, due to the inability to pay for the workers and transportation because of the cheapness of food prices, which appears to lead to unharvest crop (Lipinski et al., 2013: 12). However, owing to the universal food prices increase, it has been stated that more than hundred million people were considered below the poverty line in 2008 (Nellemann, 2009: 13). In addition to this, due to unaffordable food prices, the death among the children aged five years old and below has risen up to twenty five percent, in some parts of the world, (Nellemann, 2009: 13). Nevertheless, if food prices are increased in countries where consumption is considered as a high impact of food wastage, this may help to solve the problem.

Rising consumers’ awareness is another possible solution to reduce food wastage. An awareness campaign in the United Kingdom, called “Love Food Hate Wastage”, has been launched recently, and it has reduced the household food wastage by eighteen percent (Gunders, 2012: 5). “Stop Wasting Food” is an awareness campaign in Denmark which encourages people to buy only their daily needs of food (Gustavsson et al., 2011: 14). The consumers are almost certain to have a lack of information about the importance of packaging, and it has been noticed that they may do not know for how much time the edible food last (Plumb et al., 2013: 11). Additionally, a study has recommended that if consumers in Britain have enough understanding of the date labeling, food wastage is likely to decrease by twenty percent (Gunders, 2012: 17). For instance, effective awareness, in addition to other factors, has encouraged people in Britain to buy nonstandard fruit and vegetable (Bond et al., 2013: 16). However, awareness campaigns tend to focus on how to reduce wasted food, and it seems that these campaigns do not concern much about the core of the problem such as the huge amount of food wastage, and its consequences. Many studies have stated that it appears that there is not enough public awareness of the quantity of wasted food (Bond et al., 2013: 22). Although this is a serious mistake, it could be avoided, if more consideration is given to the whole problem, which will make consumers change their way of looking at food wastage.

In conclusion, this essay has tried to tackle food wastage in many different aspects. It has showed why food wastage is important. In addition, it has discussed consumption as it is likely to be the main factor of food wastage in the developed countries, to reach possible solutions. Rising food prices and rising consumers’ awareness are two possible solutions were suggested in this essay, and both solutions focused on consumptions. It appears that both solutions are useful; however, rising consumers’ awareness seems to be more effective, because it helps people to understand the risk of this problem, and it encourages them to stop food wastage.

Fahd Alghofaili

References:

Bond, M., Meacham, T., Bhunnoo, R. & Benton, T., (2013) Food waste within global food systems. Global Food Security. Available at http://www.foodsecurity.ac.uk/assets/pdfs/food-waste-report.pdf (Accessed 15 February 2014)

FAO – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation, (2013), Food wastage footprint: Impacts on natural resources. Available at http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3347e/i3347e.pdf (Accessed 5 February 2014)

Fox, T., (2013), Global food waste not, want not. London: Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Available at http://www.imeche.org/docs/default-source/reports/Global_Food_Report.pdf (Accessed 5 February 2014)

Gunders, D. (2012), Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. Natural Resources Defense Council. Available at http://www.nrdc.org/food/files/wasted-food-ip.pdf (accessed 5 February 2014)

Gustavsson, J., Cederberg, C., & Sonesson, U., (2011), Global food loses and food waste. Düsseldorf: Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology. Available at http://www.fao.org/docrep/014/mb060e/mb060e00.pdf (Accessed 7 February 2014)

Lipinski, B., Hanson, c., Lomax, J., Kitinoja, L., Waite, R., & Searchinger, T., (2013) Reducing Food Loss and Waste.  World Resources Institute. Available at http://www.unep.org/pdf/WRI-UNEP_Reducing_Food_Loss_and_Waste.pdf (Accessed 5 February 2014)

Nellemann, C., MacDevette, M., Manders, T., Eickhout, B., Svihus, B., Prins, A. G., Kaltenborn, B. , (2009). The environmental food crisis: The environment’s role in averting future food crises. Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme. Available at http://www.grida.no/files/publications/FoodCrisis_lores.pdf (Accessed 7 February 2014)

Plumb, A., & Downing, P. (2013), Consumer Attitudes to Food Waste and Food Packaging. Icaro Consulting, Andrew Parry, WRAP, & the Steering Group partners. Available at http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Report%20-%20Consumer%20attitudes%20to%20food%20waste%20and%20packaging.pdf (Accessed 13 February 2014)

Fahd Alghofaili