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A new UN food agency study suggests one-third of the global food supply goes to waste.Thinkstock

One-third of the global food supply produced around the world is wasted, at a cost of about $750-billion (U.S.) a year, according to a new report by the UN food agency.

Besides the staggering economic losses, food wastage has a profound impact on the environment, says the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The report says some 1.3 billion tonnes of food per year are wasted.

"Each year, food that is produced but not eaten guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia's Volga River and is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the planet's atmosphere," says the report.

"We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day," FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva said in a news release Wednesday.

Among the study's findings:

· 54 per cent of the world's food wastage occurs "upstream" during production, post-harvest handling and storage.

· 46 per cent of the waste takes place "downstream" at the processing, distribution and consumption stages.

· Food loss in developing countries tends to be more at the agricultural production stage, while waste is higher at the retail and consumer levels in middle– and high-income regions.

· Wastage of cereals in Asia is a major problem, with significant impacts on carbon emissions and water and land use.

In affluent societies, poor consumer practices and weak communication in the supply chain account for much of the high levels of food waste, says the report.

"Consumers fail to plan their shopping, over purchase, or over-react to 'best-before-dates', while quality and aesthetic standards lead retailers to reject large amounts of perfectly edible food."

Among corrective measures proposed:

· Better agricultural practices, finding a better balance between production and demand.

· Re-using food in surplus cases, such as finding secondary markets or donating extra food to those in need.

· Recycling and recovery, such as composting and incineration for energy.