Criminal waste

Number of hungry people has grown steadily.

The report Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not brought out by a UK organisation underscores the unconscionable wastage of food worldwide. It says that of the roughly 4 billion metric tons of food produced in the world annually, almost half fails to reach stomachs and gets dumped instead as garbage. The report blames poor harvesting, storage and transport methods as well as irresponsible retailer and consumer behaviour for the wastage of food. While much of the wastage in developing countries is on account of poor storage and transport facilities, in the advanced countries tonnes of vegetables and fruits are thrown away for flimsy reasons -- because they do not look good, not of the rights size or colour and so on. A vast amount of vegetables and fruits are not harvested, the report says, because of they do not meet the appearance criteria of retailers and consumers. Retailers and customers do not buy food that doesn’t look attractive but also, they
waste food they have bought because of poor understanding of concepts such as expiry dates.
Wastage of any resource is deplorable. It is more so when it is of food and in a world facing severe malnutrition and hunger, even starvation. In 2010, the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation estimated that there are 925 million hungry people i.e. one of every seven people on this planet is hungry. And the number has grown steadily every year since 1995. Neglect of agriculture, recession and the rise in food prices have been blamed for the surging hunger crisis in recent years. To this we could add wastage of food.

India is among the worst offenders in this regard. We can take pride in being a grain surplus country. Yet inadequate and poor storage facilities have resulted in millions of tons of grain going waste as it lies out in the open and is destroyed by rain and rats. Trains and trucks run late delaying delivery of perishable food items to markets. Little has been done to address these issues. There is wastage too at the level of the individual consumer. Roughly 15-20 per cent of food at weddings and other social gatherings is not eaten. Neither do we bother to send it to the hungry. The global community needs to act at various levels – international, national, local and individual – to halt the wastage of food. Achieving the Millennium Development Goal of halving global hunger by 2015 will be possible if we halt this trashing of food.

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