An overview of global food losses and waste

25 November 2011

This paper began as a series of workshop discussions hosted by Future Directions International on the subject of ‘Global Food Supply and Demand to 2050.’ The workshop, the fourth in the series, was attended by several eminent Australian academics and thinkers. Food losses and wastage was an area that was seen as needing more attention. Click HERE for Workshop Report Summary.

Key points

Almost one-third of food produced for human consumption—approximately 1.3 billion tonnes per year, which could feed the total global population of 7 billion—is either lost or wasted. Overall food loss primarily occurs in the production to retail phase of the food chain. Consumers in industrialised nations waste significantly more food than their counterparts in developing countries.

Post-harvest losses occur mainly due to corruption and meagre infrastructure in the developing world. Pre-harvest losses are another major factor in the developing world, as a result of insufficient investment in biosecurity practices.

A voluntary platform for retailers to report food waste statistics and a less over- conservative system of setting use-by dates, would aid in combating waste. An increasing world population, and its progressively scarce resources, make reduction in food losses and waste a key component in any strategy for a sustainable future global food supply.

Image: Schilling 2 / flickr