Economics & Politics

Do We Have Enough Food For The Growing World Population?

Do We Have Enough Food For The Growing World Population?

The short answer to this question is yes… we do.

Do we need Bumper Crop every year to Feed the World Population?

No. We do not need bumper Crops either. 

All that we need to do is make some practical changes in our consumption habits & avoid wastage.

These pictures may disturb many, but these are common sights across India. Just visit outside the agri-produce markets, wedding halls, supermarket stores, or even your neighborhood garbage dumping point  and you will be shocked to see the amount of food being wasted.

fooddump outside wholesale Agriculture produce market in India

Fooddump outside wholesale Agriculture produce market in India

Wasted food can be found dumped around the Banquet Halls

Wasted food can be found dumped around the Banquet Halls

Mountain of garbage at Ghazipur, New Delhi

Mountain of garbage at Ghazipur, New Delhi

Mother and daughter search in waste dump for food

Mother and daughter search in waste dump for food

Considering the high level of poverty that we have in the Urban India, these are more disturbing scene that we encounter here on a daily basis, poor people and animals fighting for food items dumped by those who can afford to waste it.

Animals looking for food in the garbage dumps

Animals looking for food in the garbage dumps

Not uncommon to see this even in the metro cities of India

Not uncommon to see this even in the metro cities of India

Not uncommon to see this even in the metro cities of India

Not uncommon to see this even in the metro cities of India

No. We Don’t Need Bumber Crops to feed the growing World Population!

Its not that the land available on our planet earth is not sufficient to feed the ever growing population of the world, there is sufficient amount of food being produced to provide basic diet for each and every living organism across continents, in each and every country of the world, and still there will be more than sufficient left. All that we need is common sense, which, as the cliche goes, has become the most uncommon thing in world today. 

  • A survey by University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Bangalore says that annually, Bangalore alone wastes 943 tons of quality food during weddings and the total food wastage in the city is estimated at Rs.339 crores.
  • As per data from the solid waste management department of the Pune Municipal Corporation, around 140 tons of leftover food is collected daily from hotels and restaurants in the city which nearly 50% is good to consume.
  • India is facing the loss of Rs.50,000 crores worth of food items. 

And this is not just the case for India or any other developing country. The issue is equally relevant even for the developed countries who may have better technology and advance systems to hide the ugliness of it all from public viewing, but a large percentage of food produce gets wasted even there.

According to a report by Institution of Mechanical Engineers European countries and USA were the worst offenders, discarding as much as half of all food.

Proportionately, the UK and Japan have traditionally been among the worst offenders worldwide in recent years when it comes to food waste, discarding between 30 and 40%  of their food produce annually. In the developing nations, the issues of food waste are more to do with poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure.

  • In the United States, the food waste worth is $180 billion every year.

    The figures for how much the U.S. throws out, however, vary considerably depending on whom you ask. According to the USDA, a quarter of the country’s food – about 25.9 million tons – gets thrown in the garbage can every year. But according to a study conducted by the University of Arizona, that figure could be as high as 50%, as the University claims that the country’s supermarkets, restaurants and convenience stores alone throw out 27 million tons between them every year (representing $30 billion of wasted food). Either way, it still costs the U.S. around $1 billion every year just to dispose of all its food waste, according to the EPA.

Food Wastage in US

Food Wastage in US

Food Wastage in US

Food Wastage in US

Food Wastage in US

Food Wastage in US

Food Wastage

Food Wastage

  • Canada’s food waste is approximately 40% and worth of $27 billion
Food wastage in Canada

Food wastage in Canada

  • Around 5.3 million tons of food waste goes to trash in UK that’s worth is £12 billion
Food wastage in Britain

Food wastage in Britain

  • The food wasted in Italy can feed the entire population of Ethiopia.
Food is being wasted every day across the world

Food is being wasted every day across the world

Food wastage across the world

Food wastage across the world

Food wastage across the world

Food wastage across the world

  • Food waste occur across three levels 1) Farms, 2) Distribution and 3) End Users 

Waste happens in throughout the food system in all stages like farming, transportation, processing, distribution, supermarkets, restaurants, food service providers and households which accounts around 40% of the food we produce.

1. Farm level

The major food waste happens in the farm level. Before harvesting, the crop losses could be with pest, birds, rodents and wild animals and the natural disasters also can cause for crop damages. Losses may be high in harvesting process since the machine harvesters are unable to detect the difference between ripen and half grown crops and also it collect some part of the crop and the rest will be left in the field itself.

Some crops like horticulture produces must be harvested by hand picking only, then some root crops may damaged  by careless hand harvesting and acute labor shortage lead to the yield loss as crops are not harvested and decayed in the fields.

Corn damaged by Hurricane Irene

Corn damaged by Hurricane Irene

Damaged crops

Damaged crops

A damaged corn crop in Rice County

A damaged corn crop in Rice County

Damaged Crops due to violent storms

Damaged Crops due to violent storms

Damaged Crops in Fields

Damaged Crops in Fields

2. Distribution level

At the distribution level, supply chain & value chain losses are very frequent due to lack of storage facilities, no proper transportation and unable to access the markets on policy issues.

A nation-wide study in India on quantitative assessment of harvest and post harvest losses for 46 agricultural produces in 106 randomly selected districts was conducted by CIPHET in 2010 revealed that wastage in fruits and vegetables is between 5.8 – 18.0 % for different crops.

Wastage are lower for other items as compared to fruits & vegetable: for crop (3.9 -6.0%), cereals (4.3-6.1%), pulses (4.3-6.1% ), oilseeds (6.0%), Meat (2.3%), fish (2.9% ) and poultry(3.7%).

Although the food stored in proper facilities, some portion get waste by the pests and microorganisms, supermarkets always reject the produces for slight cosmetic imperfection though they met the edible standards.

Retail stores, farmers markets and whole sellers are losing huge amounts in unsold fruits and vegetables; we can’t ignore the export losses in food products since they don’t meet the agriculture, safety and health standards. Altogether, a significant quantity of food produced goes waste during the processes of pre & post harvesting, supply & value chain.

A watchman sits next to stacked sacks of rotten wheat crop

A watchman sits next to stacked sacks of rotten wheat crop

A huge percentage of perishable food items get wasted during transit

A huge percentage of perishable food items get wasted during transit

Birds feed on grain bags on truck

Birds feed on grain bags on truck

They are half dead before reaching the destination - Men transport chickens wholesale poultry market New Delhi

They are half dead before reaching the destination – Men transport chickens wholesale poultry market New Delhi

Wasted Agri Produce

Wasted Agri Produce

Piled up near the fields of Chris Pawelski are rotting onions, the ones that didn’t meet the norms of the chain stores ‘that dictate everything.

Piled up near the fields of Chris Pawelski are rotting onions, the ones that didn’t meet the norms of the chain stores ‘that dictate everything.

3. End user level.

Look around, a large part of urban garbage is wasted food items

Look around, a large part of urban garbage is wasted food items

Food is a huge part of garbage dumps

Food is a huge part of garbage dumps

Urban dwellers throw away half the food products that they buy

Urban dwellers throw away half the food products that they buy

We all do it, still its criminal when you think of how many people could be fed by the food we waste

We all do it, still its criminal when you think of how many people could be fed by the food we waste

Recycling and disposal expenses are additional burden to the food waste, all uneaten food ends up in our landfills which generates green house gas emissions and it is estimated that 14% of the world’s CO2 emissions are caused by food waste itself.

This huge waste of food puts heavy pressure on agriculture as it must provide for growing population that is wasting up to 2 billion tons of food a year.

Agriculture consumes 70% of water reserves in the process of food production, 3000 liters of water required for our daily food needs, management of water is the key for our food production and water is going to be more expensive in future.

One more important issue is land usage, if we lose the food with wasteful habits the demand will be increased for extensive usage of land for farming and livestock.

The food waste has ripple effects on other industries like energy, fertilizers and pesticides which are produced by coal, chemicals, fuel, natural gas and so on, all these incremental cost is driven by uneaten food.

Global Scenario

In the face of United Nations predictions that there could be about an extra 3 billion people to feed by the end of the century and growing pressure on the resources needed to produce food, including land, water and energy, urgent action is required  to tackle this waste.

Global Food; Waste Not-Want Not, found that between 30% and 50% or 1.2-2bn tons of food produced around the world never makes it on to a plate.

In the UK as much as 30% of vegetable crops are not harvested due to their failure to meet retailers’ exacting standards on physical appearance, it says, while up to half of the food that is bought in Europe and the US is thrown away by consumers.

About 550bn cubic meters of water is wasted globally in growing crops that never reach the consumer.

Carnivorous diets add extra pressure as it takes 20-50 times the amount of water to produce 1 kilogram of meat than 1kg of vegetables; the demand for water in food production could reach 10–13 trillion cubic meters a year by 2050.

Way Forward

By the end of 2012, we are more than 7.1 billion in numbers on this planet and getting bigger and bigger. The human population on our Planet continue to grow at a considerable pace and some estimate it may very well double in the next 58. One area to feed feed the growing population is by enhancing our food produce. the cultivable land size may not keep pace with the increasing demand. Farm Mechanization and multiple cropping may help increase the yield in those geographical areas where it has not reached so far. Usage of high yielding seeds and fertilizer can help, but its a controversial subject and may have long term negative impact as well.

Apart from the ways and means we deploy to improve food available through increased production, there is huge potential improving the food availability through reduction in food wastage  across the three levels of 1) Save crops during the production process at Farms, 2) Reduce the  Transportation & Distributions losses and 3) Avoid wastage at our personal end-user level.

The point 1) and 2) mentioned above would be impacted by innovations and technological improvements.  Some damages may still be there due to natural disasters, causes which can not be controlled by us 100%. Modern engineering and technologies should be implemented in Pre/Post harvesting stages and fully integrated infrastructure should be created for transport, storage and processing.

But the point 3) is completely in our own hands, we can control our own habits and attitude and teach the same to the future generations.

Wasting a food is a cultural habit, by not wasting food we can express ourselves as well mannered and responsible.

  • The most important thing is… to buy only whatever our actual need and use it completely.
  • The super markets should liberalize their purchase practices i.e. rejecting the food stocks for just small flaws in physical characteristics.
  • Government should set a national goal to reduce the waste and sensitize the public against the waste of food by creating awareness and should encourage the NGOs who are working against food waste.
  • Elimination of food waste will provide a lot more food for growing population; it reduces the carbon foot print and mitigates the heavy load on agriculture.

The life cycle

  • What can ‘I’ do?

There is a lot one can do at personal level to bring in the behavioral change in action at home.

  1. Plan ahead and then adhere to the your plan – prepare a weekly menu.
  2. Before going to the market for food item shopping, first use the things already available at home.
  3. Do not get tempted by offers and visual temptations. Do not buy more than what what you need.
  4. Think twice before throwing anything away. Fruits and Veggies that may have been there for a while could still be perfectly healthy to eat.
  5. Try not to cook extra and leave leftover, but if you do end up with some leftovers, eat them the next day. No need to through them into the dustbin.
  6. Follow FIFO – First In First Out.  Try to consumer the food items in the same sequence as you purchase them, do not let the fresh things get consumed instantly and the older stuff rot inside the refrigerator or cupboard.
  7. Get into the habit of multiple small servings instead of once time big amount of serve.
  8. Need based purchase – Purchase from local neighborhood grocery store in small unit is better than buying big packs from Super Markets.
  9. Take advice from expert seriously on how to store the perishable food items at home.
  10. If you are lucky enough to have a open space, garden then rather than throwing away or flushing down the drain, use the kitchen waste in the garden as compost natural fertilizer.

 

One thought on “Do We Have Enough Food For The Growing World Population?

  1. Pingback: How to feed the growing world population? «

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