Food Waste: Developing vs. Developed countries

Anywhere from a quarter to one third of the world’s food production is wasted, according to recent World Bank estimates. While richer countries waste more on per capita basis,  you will be surprised to know that emerging economies also add to the global food wastage in a massive scale.

The BRICS  have been a major influence on changing food production and consumption patterns in the world economy. Despite their cultural and economic differences, we can pin point some common reasons why food waste have increased there:

  • Increased affluence resulting in post-consumer food waste, which is similar to what we see in developed countries.
  • High processed and convenience foods: more money in the pocket means consumers can afford to save time in cooking/food preparation
  • Demand for more: increase in new/fresh/higher quality product, putting pressure on growers, infrastructure and marketing. (Source)

Another extremely important factor contributing to food waste is the displacement of traditional markets by supermarkets. Brazil and China have a supermarket driven supply chain, displaying similar characteristics with the developed countries, hence more late stage food waste.

Conversely in India, supermarkets only sell less than 1% of food, with the grocery retailing sector having a high dependency on traditional markets and street vendors. In this case, food waste is concentrated during harvest and storage/transportation. India suffers losses of up to £4.4bn in fruit and vegetables each year due to the absence of effective technologies to keep produce cool.

Changing mindsets to prevent food waste has been proven to be a difficult task. World Bank senior economist Jose Cuesta recently pointed out that public pressure would be crucial to address the issue: “There will not be changes in regulation or in economic incentives if a society does not start demanding them”, added Cuesta.

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