Reducing food waste can have a positive impact on suppliers’ and consumers’ well-being. Food loss and waste results in roughly $940 billion in economic losses globally per year, according to a report by corporate coalition Champions 12.3. Reducing food waste in India can generate a “triple win.” It can save money for farmers, companies, and households.
SDG 12 seeks to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.” The third target under this goal, Target 12.3, calls for halving per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and for reducing food losses along production and supply chains (including post-harvest losses) by 2030.
Financial benefits of reducing food waste
Suppose farmers in India grow and harvest rice but it gets damaged by pests during storage. The farmers incur a financial loss because they cannot sell that rice on the market. If a food manufacturer procures milk from dairies but then some of that milk spoils or spills during processing, then the manufacturer will not earn a market return on that portion of its purchased raw milk; it is essentially raw material waste.
Likewise, people who throw out purchased but uneaten food are essentially throwing away a portion of their disposable income. In addition, in some circumstances, an entity incurs direct financial costs when disposing of uneaten food, such as tipping fees to transfer uneaten food to a landfill.
Indians who reduce their food waste at home save money to spend elsewhere. Indeed, if less food is lost or wasted, suppliers have more food to sell using the same amount of inputs while costs related to disposing of lost or wasted food decrease. Suppliers who work to reduce food waste in India may improve their reputation for environmental stewardship and strengthen customer relations.
Best practice in reducing food loss
Mud silos seal well and are therefore a better option to store food grains than other, more open types of storage. In 2000, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture of Ghana, in collaboration with partners, implemented a wide-ranging programme to promote the use of mud silos for maize storage in the Northern Region of Ghana – the aim was to encourage smallholders to use these silos over other more traditional types of storage.
Under the programme, funded by the United States Agency for International Development, artisans from communities that use mud silos demonstrated their construction in selected villages in six districts of northern Ghana. The demonstrations were facilitated by the fact that communities who traditionally use mud silos live close to those who do not.
More than 1,000 farmers in the Gushegu and Karaga Districts in the Northern Region of Ghana started using sealed mud silos as a result of the programme, and a survey of 60 farming families evaluated its success. All 60 families owned both mud silos and other types of storage facilities and most of those surveyed were using the mud silos at the time. As a result, maize storage losses dropped from an average 300 kg per family per year to about 50 kg.
Of all maize damaged by insects while in storage, an average 6.5% occurred inside the mud silos. The remaining 93.5% of losses occurred in other facilities. With the costs of construction in Ghana estimated at less than USD 109 and less labour needed to maintain them than other types of storage, mud silos were shown to offer a low-cost solution for protecting grains.
Call to action
Action is what ultimately matters. The government and companies—working alone and together via corporate social responsibility (CSR)—need to take bold measures to reduce food loss and waste through every stage in the food supply chain. There is something for everyone to do.