‘Scarce data available on food wastage in India despite ranking 94/107 on Global Hunger Index’

A working paper released by the WRI India mentions that social, economic, and environmental aspects of food loss and waste in India are largely unexplored. The paper points out that there is an urgent need to develop a roadmap for managing food losses and waste in India. Details here.

Gaon Connection
| Updated: August 20th, 2021

The paper pointed out that most of the studies relied largely on the behavioral approach toward food waste. Photo: FAO

While highlighting the contradiction between India’s food production records and its abysmal ranking in the Global Hunger Index (rankings on the basis of food security and malnutrition), WRI India (World Resources Institute) — a non-profit organisation has called out that there is dearth of data and a coordinated response when it comes to tackling food wastage in the country. According to Global Hunger Index 2021, India ranked 94 out of 107 countries in terms of food security

This was suggested by a working paper titled ‘Food Loss and Waste in India: The Knowns and the Unknowns’ which was jointly released by WRI India and The Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU) on August 19.

The FOLU coalition is a joint initiative between the Council on  Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad  (IIM-A), The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Revitalizing Rainfed Agriculture Network (RRAN) and WRI India. This initiative works  towards developing long-term pathways for sustainable food and land use systems and  informs policy decisions.

Also Read: Severely malnourished under-5 children consumed by hunger in the pandemic

“A roadmap is needed for managing food loss and waste in India, based on data-driven strategies and solutions and taking into account the challenges faced by diverse stakeholders. Concerted efforts are needed to increase awareness of and research into all the dimensions of food loss and waste,” the paper stated.

The paper also mentioned that the estimated economic value of post-harvest losses in India was Rs 926.51 billion in 2014 which was 0.6 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). It also noted that the COVID19 pandemic is exacerbating nutrition insecurity in India. 

Also Read: Waste and Want: 50 kg of food a person wasted every year, while 14% Indians malnourished

Meanwhile, Monika Agarwal, Senior Manager, WRI India was quoted, “Significant amount of food in India never gets consumed because it gets wasted during its  movement from farm to plate. The loss is much more than just the amount of food, it is about  the health of our people, ecosystem – plants, animals, soil, water, biodiversity which are all  interlinked. We need concerted multi-actor efforts to reduce food getting lost in how we  produce, store, transport, process, distribute, and consume food”.

Also Read: Nearly 70% under-3 malnourished kids in rural Jharkhand did not receive additional nutrition support: Right To Food Campaign survey

‘Empirical research on food waste is very scarce’

The paper pointed out that most of the studies conducted on food wastage in India are based on the perceptions of restaurant/hotel owners and consumers, and relied largely on the behavioral approach toward food waste.

“ Though there are national estimates of food losses, there are no national or subnational estimates of food waste. Most of the publications analyzed relied on secondary data (72 studies). Only 22 studies on food loss and 11 on food waste included primary data,” it stated.

Also Read: Close to a million severely acute malnourished children in India; Uttar Pradesh worst affected: Smriti Irani informs Rajya Sabha

Suggestions and the way forward

Among its suggestions for tackling food waste in India, the paper noted that there is an urgent need to adopt a standard metric for estimating food loss and waste to help generate comparable data from different studies across time and geographies.

Other suggestions include:

  • Put the issue of food loss and waste on the research agenda at all levels in India. The research agenda needs to include estimation of food waste nationally, as well as the social, economic, and environmental impact of food loss and waste. 
  • Create awareness and mobilise a movement for reducing food loss and waste in India that embraces diverse stakeholders. 
  • Set up a multi-stakeholder action coalition to (a)foster collaboration and partnerships to manage food loss and waste, (b) prioritise the research agenda on food loss and waste in India, (c) develop strategies and mobilise action, and (d) support policy development and implementation for sustainable food and land-use systems.

The full paper on the food wastage can be accessed here.