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#BTColumn – International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste

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By Dr Renata Clarke

Last 12 months’s Food Systems Summit provoked dialogues across countries on dysfunctions of food systems in much of the world and the urgency of reworking these systems to attain higher production, a greater environment, higher nutrition, and a greater life for people in every single place.  Caribbean leaders were on the front line in calling for food system transformation. Reducing food loss and waste is one among the lines of motion that may, at the identical time, increase food availability and reduce environmental degradation.   

The third International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste might be observed on 29 September 2022. Awareness is step one for conscious and constructive motion. Consumers, food businesses, farmers, governments, educators, all must be aware because all of them have the facility to contribute to reducing food loss and waste.  The Sustainable development Goal 12 calls on global community to scale back food loss during production and along the availability chain and to halve food waste at retail and at the patron level.

When food is spoiled before attending to market or is wasted after reaching the market, the implications are far-reaching. The travesty of losing availability of food, at a time when food insecurity and food prices within the region are at their highest levels ever, is essentially the most obvious impact however the loss and related environmental implications transcend that. Land resources, water, energy, agricultural inputs, labour that went into the production of food are also wasted when the food doesn’t find yourself on someone’s table. The environmental footprint related to that production represents an environmental cost with no associated social profit. There must be a holistic societal response to addressing this case.

What can consumers do? We might be more conscientious within the planning of our meals and related food purchases to ensure that we use what we buy inside its shelf-life. We will exercise care in the best way we store food at home to avoid spoilage and contamination. At a time when back-yard gardening is becoming more widespread, we are able to use organic and food waste in composting.

What must governments and the private food sector do? Food loses during production and marketing are highly variable depending on country and commodity. Figures of between 20-30% losses are commonly cited. During production losses can occur as a consequence of pest and disease or opposed weather conditions. Ceaselessly post-production losses are related to poorly planned marketing, the absence of adequate market infrastructure (storage facilities, cold storage, processing facilities) or mismanagement of the transport, handling or processing that makes the food unfit for consumption. Loss in minimized where private sector effectively plans, coordinates and manages production and marketing activities. Governments play a key facilitating role in promoting access to production and marketing information, establishing an appropriate policy/ regulatory framework for investing in and running food businesses, and providing needed technical  and other support to producers.

What’s FAO doing? Through various ongoing programmes and projects within the Caribbean, FAO supports higher planning and strengthened government services to agriculture and strengthened capacities of agricultural entrepreneurs to effectively manage their operations. Moreover, FAO is working with countries and regional institutions to develop digital early warning systems that allow quick response by farmers to guard against protection losses. Jointly with the UWI Faculty of Agriculture, we’re preparing to determine pilot insect rearing facilities whereby food and agricultural waste might be transformed into top quality animal feed and high-quality organic soil conditioners.  Not only does this reduce loss, it also creates an area animal feed value chains and organic fertilizers that bring us closer to our goal of inclusive and sustainable food systems.

Dr Renata Clarke is sub-regional coordinator of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

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