Post Mortem

The hunger-food waste paradox in India

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 4/8/2021 1:08:57 PM IST

 On one hand, a country struggles to feed its starving population, on the other hand, wastes a lot of food. This situation reflects a grim contrast. This contradiction puts India in a piquant situation. On one hand, India ranks 103rd in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) while on the other, in an eye-opening revelation, the average households waste 50 kg of food per person per yearor 68,760,163 tonnes a year, according to the United Nations Environment Programme’s Food Waste Index Report 2021. It produces more, wastes more while more people go hungry.Indians waste as much food as the whole of United Kingdom consumes. I mean food wastage is an alarming issue in India. The Food Waste Index Report 2021 says that the household food waste in India is about 68.7 million tonnes a year.

Food Waste Index Report 2021estimates that around 931 million tonnes of food waste was generated in 2019. 61% of which came from households, 26% from food service and 13% from retail.

Around 67 million tonnes of food is wasted in India every year which has been valued at around Rs 92,000 crores. For context, this amount is enough to feed all of Bihar for a year. Annually, nearly 21 million metric tonnes of wheat rots in India. This figure is equal to Australia’s total annual production. According to old 2018 BMC data, Mumbai generates close to 9,400 metric tonnes of solid waste per day, from which 73% is food, vegetable, and fruit waste, while only 3% is plastic.Meat accounts for about 4% of food wastage but 20% of the costs, while 70% of fruit and vegetable output is wasted, accounting for 40% of the total cost. India may be the world’s largest milk producer and grow the second largest quantity of fruits and vegetables (after China), but it is also the world’s biggest waster of food.

Common causes of food waste in restaurants include overbuying, overproduction, and spoilage. Overbuying is often a result of inadequate forecasting of consumer demand and the large quantities of food that restaurants typically need to purchase at one time. 

Food Wastage not only leads to negative environmental impact but also causes economic loss. According to an FAO report, approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. The economic costs of this food wastage are substantial and amount to about $1 trillion each year.

What we can do? Planning in the supply chain can improve with technology, reducing transit time in shipping and logistics. In addition, multiple government initiatives are also assisting in building infrastructure for the food industry.We need to plan out your meal and make our shopping list in advance to determine what we actually need. Earlier data suggested that about 20% of what we buy in urban India ends up being thrown away. We could cut down on the surplus and contain wastage. We should buy in quantities we can realistically use. We should avoid impulse buys because it will more or less find itself in the bin.If we cook at home, we should make sure we cook keeping in mind there is no excess. In case we end up making more food than what can be consumed, we should not throw it away. It is needed to be fed someone around us who needs that meal.

Mithilesh Kumar Sinha, 

Nagaland University, 



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