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Food Wastage & its Impacts

Food waste or food loss is food that is discarded or lost uneaten. The cause of food waste or loss is numerous and occurs at the stages of producing, processing, retelling and consuming. Global food loss and waste amount to between one third and half of all food produced. Loss and wastage occurs at all stages of the food supply chain or value chain. In low –income countries, most loss occur during production, while in developed countries much food – about 100kg per persons per year is wasted at the consumption stage. Causes of food waste may be due to poor farmers harvest crops too early in response to a lack of food and money, minimal farming technology such as plows, tractors and pesticides, inadequate market system, markets are often small, overcrowded, unsanitary and lack of proper cooling equipment for fresh produce, meat and fish spoil in hot climates due to lack of proper transportation. On the other hand in the developed countries the causes of food loss are due to  farmers produce excess food out of anticipation of poor weather or pest attacks, supermarkets have appearance quality standards as edible foods may be rejected by supermarkets due to crops not being favorable in terms of weight, size or supermarkets display large quantities of products that reach their sell before being sold, bulk sized packaging ,large portion meals in restaurants, the attitude that disposing is cheaper than using or re-using, households buy more food than needed.

When food is disposed in a landfill, it rots and becomes a significant source of Methane- a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Growing and transporting the food that goes to waste emits as much carbon pollutants as 39 million passenger vehicles. When we waste food, we’re not just wasting food; we’re also wasting all the resources that went into growing it. A report by the NRDC, food waste ends up wasting nearly a quarter of our water supply in the form of uneaten food or over 172 billion dollars in waste water. Each, year, asa country we spend over 220 billion dollars, growing, transporting and processing but almost 70 million tons of food that we cultivate ends up going to waste. If the land we cultivate, growing food that goes to waste in US were all in one place, it would over more than 3/4th  of California. Growing food that goes to waste ends up 21% of our fresh water, 19% of our fertilizer, 18% of our cropland and 21% of our landfill volume. This comes with a heavy carbon footprint as well. The Global food system is responsible for upto 1/3rdof all human caused greenhouse gas emissions, makinglargest contributors to climate change, according to the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research. The fact that we carelessly waste 40% of our food in the US and 33% globally means there is huge potential to reduce our Environmental footprint. Big picture energy and transportation tend to be the face of climate change but with food’s impact arguably larger it definitely deserves more of a focus. Reducing food waste is environmentally important as it keeps food out of landfills. It makes economic sense at the small scale by lowering household food bills and at the large scale by reducing disposal costs for restaurants, processors and farmers. In fact food wastage gives a big impact on climate, water, land and Bio-diversity. Wasting 1.3 billion tons of food causes huge economic losses and a lot of human life, also there are climate as well as environmental issues deeply connected to food waste, according to a report from UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

        Over 240 million slices of bread are chucked away every year, around 5.9 million glasses of milk are poured down the sink every year but it’s so easy to use it up, we discard 5.8 million potatoes each year, a staggering 1.3 million apples are thrown away each year. India waste Rs244 corer worth of food a day (Economic Times: June 8-2018). 18% of India’s fruit & vegetables production, valued at Rs13, 300 corers is wasted annually, according to Emerson Climate Technology India. According to FAO estimates in The State of Food Security & Nutrition in the World, 2018 report195.9 million people are undernourished in India. By this measure, 14.8% of the population is undernourished in India. Also 51.4% of women in reproductive age between 15 to 49 years are anemic. 1/3rd of the World’s hungry live in India.836 million Indians survive on less than Rs20/ a day. Over 20 corers Indian will sleep hungry everynight.10 million people die every year of chronic hunger and hunger related diseases. India has a significant proportion of women and children who are malnourished-the causes are manifold. In every minute of every day four children die of hunger in India. Over 7000 Indians die of hunger everyday .Over 25 lakh Indian die of hunger every year. The number of hunger people in India is always more than the number of people below official poverty line. The main cause of hunger Worldwide is poverty. Millions of people around the World are simply too poor to be enable to buy food. They also lack the resources to grow their own food, such as arable land and the means to harvest, process and store food. 25,000 people lose their lives every day as a result of hunger. That adds upto roughly 9.1 million people die of starvation each year according to FAO.

While India has been impressive in economic growth in recent year, the country still struggles with widespread poverty and hunger. India’s poor population amounts to more than 300 million people, with almost 30% of India’s rural population living in poverty. China, unlike India does not produce enough food for its population. While India does produce enough food, it is terribly callous about storage, wastage, distribution and mass affordability. Hunger exists in India because people cannot access the food, according to Global Hunger Index report. The national Food Security Act 2013(also known as Right to Food Act) is an Act of the Parliament of India which aims subsidized food grains to approximately 2/3rd of India’s 1.2 billion people; however it is still a Tiger on the Paper. India is home to 270 million hungry people, the highest in the World. India stands 97th in Oxfam’s Food Availability Index and 103rd in the 2018 Global Hunger Index.

Coming down to our state Manipur, we are facing an acute impact of Scarcity of food grains. The recent buzz in media about PDS under NFSA shows the clarity of the situation. The areas of arable land are reducing at a very high speed in the name of development &industrialization, which is a known fact. Last year’s flood as well as scarcity of water during the need hour of rice plants, reduced rice production drastically causing hike in the price of local rice at Rs50/- per kg now. The problem will be much grimmer in next year as no rain now for the cultivation of rice. At the same time we are still continuing the habit of spoiling foods during UTSAV,MANGANI CHAKOUBA, NAHUTPA,YEIGYA and many other social gathering & party, the result for which has been mentioned above. Again, little agricultural products of our poor farmers like vegetables, fruits etc. are also gone waste most of the time as there is not a single Cold storage in our state to store these products during peak time for using in lean period. Another pathetic situation faced by our poor farmers is that there is no proper market/ price regulation, resulting heavy losses due to regular and frequent price fluctuation of vegetable products. However we can reduce the wastage of food and hunger if-(i) we initiate more food collection drive (ii) Urban farming (iii) sustainable farming (iv)Government intervention honestly (v)birth control (vi) access to credit (vii) access to education. Now, it’s concerned for every citizen to think over the issue of food wastage and its effect in a wider spectrum before it is too late.

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh is a regular contributor of Imphal Times. Presently, he is teaching Mathematics at NIELIT. Jugeshwor can be reached at: [email protected] Or WhatsApp’s No: 9612891339.

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