The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations asserts that minimizing food loss “is easier than you think” by adopting simple solutions that can help “break the vicious cycle of food loss and climate change.”
The FAO article, released in connection with the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste 2022, notes that each year, approximately 14 percent of the food we produce is lost between when it is harvested and before it reaches the shops. A further 17 percent of our food ends up being wasted by retailers and consumers.”
FAO continues: “Food loss and waste is also a major contributor to the climate crisis, accounting for up to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions. In some countries, the food supply chain is already on course to overtake farming and land use as the largest contributor to GHGs emissions, adding to an unstable climate and extreme weather events such as droughts and flooding.”
Alarming numbers, to be sure, but simple solutions? It seems that nothing is ever simple anymore.
The UN organization has implemented several projects designed to reduce food loss and make agriculture systems more efficient. The Asia region is showing some promising results. Consider the mango.
Like other fruits, fresh mangoes spoil rapidly because of their high moisture content and delicate nature. If not harvested at the correct stage of maturity, and if not handled properly throughout the distribution chain, mangoes suffer both in terms of quality and quantity, resulting in losses and reduced income for all involved in their production and post-harvest handling. Furthermore, improper handling and infestations shorten their shelf-life, which in turn limits their sales, resulting in economic losses.
In southern Asia, for example, FAO experts found that local farmers often have scarce knowledge of how to handle fruit and vegetables after the harvest and also lack the resources to address quality issues in the supply chain. This can result in more than half of vegetable harvests being lost due to diseases, pest infestations, improper harvesting techniques, careless handling, poor packaging, and transport conditions.
That does not sound very simple, but apparently, training is a key factor. “When FAO trained the farmers to apply good post-harvest management practices and use reusable plastic crates instead of single-use mesh sacks to transport their produce, the switch produced dramatic improvements.”
Using plastic crates for bulk packaging reduced losses to a minimum during transportation. Also, “shelf lives in shops and markets improved significantly for the mangoes that underwent a hot-water treatment that controls post-harvest diseases. New harvesting tools and techniques, such as improved picking poles or trimming the fruit stem with scissors and gloves rather than pulling them off by hand, reduced mechanical injury to the fruit, while the trimming of the stems reduced latex staining of the fruit when packed in the crates, making them more attractive in shops and markets.”
Improvements in the post-harvest handling practices, together with the hot water treatment, resulted in better quality mangoes having a longer shelf life in retail, with a 70 – 80 percent reduction in the number of mangoes wasted due to decay over a period of five days.
FAO is promoting its findings and practices around the world. About 5 000 smallholders across Asia have been trained in fresh fruit and vegetable production and marketing.
The FAO conclusion? “With the rise of food prices, the growing impact of climate change, and the persistence of global hunger, there is no excuse for food loss and waste at any level.”
It does sound simple, but simple is often complicated.
The story and photos can be found here: https://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1605721/