Every year we lose about 14% of the food produced before it is sold, and this does not even include the food never harvested. Even more is wasted at retail and consumer levels. At the same time, over 800 million people worldwide suffer from hunger, while food loss is a major contributor to CO2 emissions and negatively impacts soil, water and biodiversity.
Innovative digitally-enabled solutions hold potential to tackle this complex challenge; to face the redistribution problem and to bring back the food that is lost along the entire supply chain, with us, consumers, not even knowing it.
The UNECE event ‘Food waste reloaded for inclusive agri-trade supply chains’ at the world’s largest food and agricultural meeting—the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture, held recently in Berlin, Germany, not only highlighted this issue – it also presented a simple solution: UNECE’s Smart Food Loss Management System. There is no planet B but there is second chance for food lost and wasted.
The System enables concerted, integrated action, ‘reloading’ the lost and to most of us invisible food back into the supply chain. Making this food available to potential buyers and other users (such as charities) in a fast, reactive and reliable way links the “missing buyers” with the “missing food”. It will make more food available in the supply chain, which could help to tackle the food security and malnutrition challenge in many countries. In Kenya for example where 75% of agricultural production is small-scale, 30-35% of food produced for export is lost pre-shipment, while 3.4 million people in the country are food insecure.
More food in the supply chain also reduces pressure to produce more food on less and less available land. This promotes resource efficiency through less pressure on water, land and energy use, and also helps improve biodiversity.
The current lack of data and benchmarks to measure progress is a tremendous hurdle towards the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 12 – on sustainable consumption and production. Without data, measuring and monitoring food loss becomes practically impossible and corrective policy decisions are not backed-up by evidence. UNECE’s Smart Food Loss Management System systematically generates and analyzes much needed data to support policy decisions, and helps devise food loss prevention measures at loss hotspots along the supply chain.
Offering an online traceable blockchain-based market solution for buying and selling ‘lost and invisible food’, the Smart Food Loss Management System also creates income and new outlets and sales channels. Even food waste which can no longer be reloaded for human consumption or feed can be linked to energy/biomass production. The Smart Food Loss Management System supports circular economy strategies in a public-private partnership model and serves multiple sustainable development, business and employment needs.
The food production and trade systems worldwide are seeking sustainable solutions. Simple yet integrated digital technologies could address many of the policy challenges, nutritional demand, food accessibility and availability in the near and more distant future.
Preparations are currently underway to pilot the System. For more information, please visit: http://www.unece.org/trade/agr/unece-foodlosschallenge.html