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2015
FINAL REPORT
THE IMPACT
OF REDUCING
FOOD LOSS IN
THE GLOBAL
COLD CHAIN
C. G. Winkworth-Smith,
T. J. Foster and W. Morgan
Funded by a grant from
University of Nottingham 2 March 2015
a Division of Food Sciences, School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington
Campus, Loughborough LE12 5RD, UK.
b School of Economics, Sir Clive Granger Building, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD. UK.
Corresponding author: Dr Charlie Winkworth-Smith
Phone: +44 (0) 115 951 6400
Fax: +44 (0) 115 951 6020
Email: charles.winkworth-smith@nottingham.ac.uk
Acknowledgements
This research was financially supported by United Technologies Corporation. The survey of experts
was supported by Global 78.
Keywords
Food losses, waste, postharvest, undernourishment, micronutrients, innovations.
University of Nottingham 3 March 2015
Table of Contents
1. Executive summary ............................................................................................................ 7
2. Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 9
2.1 Summary ................................................................................................................... 12
3. Food loss and wasteterminology and the study ............................................................ 13
3.1 Terminology .............................................................................................................. 13
3.2 The study ................................................................................................................... 14
3.3 Summary ................................................................................................................... 15
4. The causes of perishable food loss .................................................................................. 16
4.1 Developing countries ................................................................................................ 16
4.1.1 Harvesting practices ........................................................................................... 16
4.1.2 The cold chain .................................................................................................... 17
4.1.3 Market conditions .............................................................................................. 17
4.1.4 Infrastructure ..................................................................................................... 18
4.1.5 Government policy............................................................................................. 19
4.2 Developed countries ................................................................................................. 21
4.2.1 Field losses ......................................................................................................... 21
4.2.2 Out-grading ........................................................................................................ 21
4.2.3 Uncertainties in forecasting demand ................................................................ 22
4.2.4 Improper handling/loading/temperature ......................................................... 22
4.2.5 Other causes of food loss ................................................................................... 23
4.3 Summary ................................................................................................................... 24
5. The potential value of reducing fruit and vegetable loss ................................................ 26
5.1 Method ...................................................................................................................... 27
5.2 Results and discussion ............................................................................................... 29
5.3 Summary ................................................................................................................... 32
6. Implications of reducing food loss and waste ................................................................. 33
6.1 Increased food availability ........................................................................................ 33
6.2 Food safety ................................................................................................................ 33
6.3 Food prices ................................................................................................................ 33
6.4 Environment .............................................................................................................. 34
6.5 Summary ................................................................................................................... 35
University of Nottingham 4 March 2015
7. Approaches to reducing food loss ................................................................................... 36
7.1 Smallholder commercialisation ................................................................................. 36
7.2 Better packaging ....................................................................................................... 37
7.2.1 Returnable plastic crates ................................................................................... 37
7.2.2 Modified atmosphere/active packaging ............................................................ 38
7.2.3 Smart packaging ................................................................................................. 38
7.2.4 Edible coatings ................................................................................................... 38
7.3 Improving the cold chain ........................................................................................... 39
7.3.1 Pre-cooling ......................................................................................................... 39
7.3.2 Cold storage and transportation ........................................................................ 39
7.3.3 Cold chain technology ........................................................................................ 40
7.3.4 Cold chain management .................................................................................... 41
7.4 Improved infrastructure ............................................................................................ 41
7.4.1 Small scale infrastructure .................................................................................. 42
7.5 Processing .................................................................................................................. 43
7.6 Information technology ............................................................................................ 44
7.6.1 Sensors and trackers .......................................................................................... 44
7.6.1.1 Market size ..................................................................................................... 45
7.6.2 Mobile technology ............................................................................................. 45
7.7 Better data and forecasting ...................................................................................... 46
7.8 Large retailer practices .............................................................................................. 47
7.8.1 Use ugly food ..................................................................................................... 48
7.9 Financing ................................................................................................................... 48
7.10 Better regulations .................................................................................................. 49
7.10.1 On farm .............................................................................................................. 49
7.10.2 Taxation.............................................................................................................. 49
7.10.3 Levies on capital goods ...................................................................................... 49
7.10.4 Packaging levies ................................................................................................. 49
7.10.5 Food Safety ........................................................................................................ 50
7.11 Education ............................................................................................................... 50
7.12 Summary ................................................................................................................ 51
8. Drivers of change ............................................................................................................. 53
University of Nottingham 5 March 2015
8.1 The growing middle class .......................................................................................... 53
8.2 Summary ................................................................................................................... 54
9. What are the possible approaches to food waste utilisation? ........................................ 55
9.1 Food donation ........................................................................................................... 55
9.2 Animal Feed ............................................................................................................... 57
9.3 Industrial uses ........................................................................................................... 57
9.4 Anaerobic digestion/renewable energy .................................................................... 58
9.5 Composting ............................................................................................................... 58
9.6 Landfill and incineration ............................................................................................ 58
9.7 Summary ................................................................................................................... 59
10. Future challenges in understanding food loss .............................................................. 60
10.1 Limitations of data ................................................................................................. 60
10.1.1 The amount of food loss throughout the entire supply chain .......................... 60
10.1.2 Nutrient content of food loss ............................................................................ 60
10.1.3 Geographic Information System (GIS)/remote sensing ..................................... 60
10.1.4 Impact on rural income ...................................................................................... 61
10.1.5 Education ........................................................................................................... 61
10.1.6 Harvest ............................................................................................................... 61
10.1.7 Cold chain ........................................................................................................... 61
10.1.8 Transportation ................................................................................................... 62
10.1.9 Out-grading ........................................................................................................ 62
10.1.10 Retail ............................................................................................................... 62
10.1.11 What happens to food waste? ....................................................................... 62
10.2 Other sectors similar to the food cold chain ......................................................... 62
10.3 Summary .......................................................................................................................... 63
11. China an introduction ................................................................................................ 64
11.1 Food safety ............................................................................................................ 64
11.2 Opportunity ........................................................................................................... 65
12. India an introduction.................................................................................................. 67
12.1 Limited cold chain .................................................................................................. 67
12.2 Barriers to implementation ................................................................................... 67
12.3 Opportunities ......................................................................................................... 68
University of Nottingham 6 March 2015
12.4 Bananas a case study .......................................................................................... 68
13. Pakistan an introduction ............................................................................................ 70
13.1 Agriculture ............................................................................................................. 70
13.2 Food cold chain ...................................................................................................... 70
13.3 Opportunities ......................................................................................................... 71
13.4 Pharmaceutical cold chain ..................................................................................... 72
14. Kenya an introduction ................................................................................................ 73
14.1 Fresh cut flowers - supply chains already in place ................................................ 73
14.2 The seafood value chain ........................................................................................ 74
14.3 The dairy sector ..................................................................................................... 75
14.4 Fruit and vegetable supply chains ......................................................................... 75
14.5 The growth of supermarkets ................................................................................. 76
14.6 Mangoes an opportunity .................................................................................... 76
14.7 The financial cost of upgrading the value chain .................................................... 77
15. The UK an introduction .............................................................................................. 78
15.1 Food loss and waste .............................................................................................. 78
15.2 The grocery market new trends ......................................................................... 79
15.3 The cold chain ........................................................................................................ 80
15.4 Environmental focus .............................................................................................. 80
16. Conclusions ................................................................................................................... 81
17. References .................................................................................................................... 83
Appendix 1. Survey questions ............................................................................................ 96
Appendix 2. Micronutrient calculations ............................................................................. 98
University of Nottingham 7 March 2015
1. Executive summary
A third of all food produced globally is lost or wasted. Given the many starving people and
poor levels of nutrition around the world, reducing this waste would appear to be a key
global priority. By 2050, the global population will reach 9 billion. If current levels of food
loss and waste are maintained, food production will need to increase by as much as 70% in
developing countries alone, requiring investment of $83 billion a year1.
Reducing the levels of loss and waste will have a large impact on food security, nutrition,
rural income and the environment. Dealing with hunger though is not just a matter of
increasing availability of calories; increased availability for consumption of micronutrients is
also important to combat hidden hunger. This can be addressed through loss reduction
targeted at key food groups such as fruit and vegetables.
In this report we focus on perishable food loss, from harvest or slaughter through to retail.
The findings draw on a literature review but more centrally from a survey of a number of
experts from different geographical regions and areas of expertise to enable us to produce a
more accurate picture of where food is lost in the supply chain and what measures can be
implemented to reduce this loss.
Our aim in producing this report is to raise awareness of the impact and scale of food loss
around the world, to highlight the many approaches that can be used to reduce perishable
food loss and suggest what might be the next steps in understanding this area.
Key Observations
The major causes of food loss in developing countries include: poor harvesting
practices; lack of access to cold chains and reliable energy sources required to power
them; market conditions; inadequate infrastructure; design of government policies.
Due to advanced cold chains and supply chain practices the levels of food loss are
generally much lower in developed countries. The major causes of food loss in
developed countries include: field losses; out-grading; uncertainties in demand;
improper handling; breaks in the cold chain. Much of the total wastage in developed
countries is due to consumer behaviour.
By weight, fruit and vegetables have the highest levels of loss and waste globally at
44% of the total, yet account for just 13% of total loss and waste in terms of energy
content2.
The total calorific content that could potentially be saved if fruit and vegetable loss
was reduced by 25% in the four countries we investigate (China, India, Pakistan and
Kenya) would be the equivalent of enough energy to satisfy the requirements of up
to 22 million people for a year.
The impact of the micronutrient content of the fruit and vegetables is even greater,
having the equivalent iron content for up to 66 million people and vitamin A content
University of Nottingham 8 March 2015
for up to 70 million people. This highlights the pressing need to reduce global
perishable food loss.
Reducing food loss could be achieved by: implementing or improving the cold chain;
better packaging; food processing; improved farming practices; upgrading
infrastructure; utilising new information technologies; increased access to credit;
better regulations; more and better education.
Some solutions to reduce loss can be implemented at specific sectors in the supply
chain (farm or retail level) such as the use of better types of packaging, while others
are more generic including large infrastructure projects. A broad range of
stakeholders, from smallholder farmers to national governments, need to mount a
concerted effort to reduce these huge levels of loss.
Next steps in understanding this area point to better and more comprehensive data
to assess the amount of food loss and the micronutrient impact of this food loss.
Additional data is also needed on the impact on rural income, the most effective
types of education, especially using new technologies such as mobile services, the
amount of out-grading and what happens to food waste.
University of Nottingham 9 March 2015
2. Introduction
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations there are
805 million people who are chronically undernourished3, around 2 billion people who are
affected by micronutrient deficiencies, also known as hidden hunger4,5, and more than 100
million children under the age of 5 who are underweight6. The global population is expected
to grow to 9 billion by 20507, with much of the growth occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa and
rapidly industrialising nations in Asia, which will substantially increase the demand for food8.
To combat malnutrition there are many challenges that have to be overcome such as
climate change9, water scarcity10, energy requirements and reducing the huge amount of
food loss and waste.
Undernourishment a definition
“A state, lasting for at least one year, of inability to acquire enough food, defined as a level
of food intake insufficient to meet dietary energy requirements.” FAO (2000)11.
The FAO estimates that almost a third by weight (1.3 billion tonnes) or a quarter, in terms of
calorific content, of all food produced globally is lost or wasted every year12,13. Food loss is
defined by HLPE (2014)14 as a decrease, at all stages of the food chain prior to the
consumer level, in mass, of food that was originally intended for human consumption,while
food waste refers to food appropriate for human consumption being discarded or left to
spoil at consumer level” and generally relates to behavioural issues.
To meet the growing food demand the global crop production will have to increase. Tilman,
et al. (2011) have shown that the increase in global crop demand could increase by 100-
110% from 2005 to 205015. If current agricultural trends continue, this would have a large
environmental impact, with 1 billion hectares (2.5 billion acres) of land being cleared
globally by 2050, greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural activities reaching 3 billion
tonnes per year and nitrogen use could be as high as 250 million tonnes per year. Reducing
the levels of food loss and waste would have a significant impact on the number of people
that could be fed as well as minimising the amount of land, water and energy required for
agriculture. However, only about 5% of international agricultural research funding goes
towards minimising postharvest losses, with 95% of the funds aimed at increasing yields16.
In addition, only a small fraction of development projects in developing countries have
focused on reducing postharvest losses17.
Although there have been a number of studies that have investigated the extent of food
loss, due to the high variability in methodologies they are often difficult to compare18. Due
to the serious lack of data, which will be discussed further in Section 10, many of the
regional and global estimates of food loss rely on small scale studies or anecdotal evidence
that is then extrapolated to produce figures for entire regions or product categories12.
University of Nottingham 10 March 2015
Whilst these estimates should be taken with caution, they nonetheless demonstrate the
huge quantities of food and particularly perishable food that is being lost around the world.
Fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy are inherently perishable and without proper
transport and storage their usable life is dramatically decreased. The level of perishable
food loss is therefore much greater when compared to cereals12,19. By weight, fruit and
vegetables have the highest levels of loss and waste globally at 44% of the total, followed by
roots and tubers (20%)2. In many developing countries, fruit and vegetable losses are
between 20-50%16,20-22, with some studies reporting losses as high as 80%17. Meat, seafood
and dairy have similar levels of loss, but due to their much lower levels of production, the
overall loss is much lower than fruit and vegetables2.
There are many interconnected causes of food loss along the entire food supply chain. Some
of the major causes in developing countries include:
poor harvesting practices
the lack of access to cold chains and reliable energy sources required to power them
poor market conditions
insufficient infrastructure
inappropriate government policies.
Due to advanced cold chains and supply chain practices the levels of food loss are generally
much lower in developed countries, however, contribution to food loss includes:
field losses
out-grading the rejection of food that does not meet the required specification
uncertainties in demand
improper handling
breaks in the cold chain
The cold chain is the uninterrupted temperature controlled transport and storage system of
perishable goods between producers and consumers. Only about 10% of perishable foods
are refrigerated worldwide23, yet refrigeration is the best technology, with no associated
risks, to ensure food safety and prolong the shelf life of perishable food. For example, milk
can last for up to two weeks at 0oC but just a few hours at 30oC24. More than 50% of global
food loss and waste is comprised of commodities that can benefit from refrigeration25.
India loses as much as 20-50% of all its perishable food due in part to an inadequate or non-
existent cold chain, equating to a cost of US$ 4.5 billion while Africa loses up to US$ 4 billion
worth of perishable food26. In Tanzania 97% of meat has never come into contact with
refrigeration as a cold chain does not exist except for imported meat that goes to hotels and
supermarkets and the shelf life of fresh meat is just one day or less with an estimated 40%
of red meat lost post slaughter27. Where cold storage facilities do exist, they are often only
University of Nottingham 11 March 2015
suitable for one type of commodity. For example 75% of India’s cold storage warehouses
are only suitable for potatoes, a commodity that produces only 20% of agricultural revenue.
Much of the total food loss and waste in developed countries is due to consumer wastage,
accounting for 61% and 52% of the total food loss and waste in North America and Europe
respectively2 which equates to 95-115 kg/year of food per capita wasted 12. This compares
to just 5-13% or 6-11 kg/year in Sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia.
In 2010, about 31% of the available food supply in the United States at the retail (10%) or
consumer (21%) levels was lost or wasted28. The estimated value of the 133 billion pounds
of food that was lost or wasted was US$ 161.6 billion. The three food groups with the
highest value of loss or waste were meat, poultry and fish (30%, $48 billion), vegetables
(19%, $30 billion) and dairy products (17%, $27 billion). Approximately 25% of all the food
and drinks that consumers buy is thrown away, either due to spoilage or cooking or serving
too much and subsequently discarding the remainder29. Per household, the cost of food
waste is as much as US$ 936 a year30.
Supermarket losses in the US in 2005 and 2006 were found to be approximately 12% for
fruit and vegetables and 7% for meat, poultry and seafood28,31. A further study found a
similar level of loss with 11.4% for fresh fruit, 9.7% for fresh vegetables and 4.5% for fresh
meat, poultry and seafood30,31.
In Switzerland almost half of the avoidable loss and waste, in terms of calorific content,
occurs at the household level32. In Germany, there are approximately 11 million tonnes of
loss and waste with 61% at household level, 17% during industrial production, 17% from
large scale consumers and 5% at retail 33. Around 12-22% of meat and meat products are
lost or wasted34. There is approximately 12% of loss or waste in fresh poultry meat chains
with 0.5% at processing, 1% due to logistics, 1% at wholesale, 2.5% at retail and 6%
consumer waste. The total amount of preventable food loss and waste over the whole
supply chain of Austria is estimated to lie at about 350,000 tonnes annually or at 42
kg/inhabitant annually35.
The total UK food and drink loss and waste is estimated to be around 15 million tonnes per
year with households generating 7.2 million tonnes per year (4.4 million tonnes of which is
avoidable). In 2007, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) published an
influential report which revealed that 22% of food and drink purchases were being thrown
away by consumers36. However, due to campaigns such as Love Food Hate Waste,
agreements with the food industry and government, and changes in policy and regulation,
for example, the removal of ‘display until’ dates and changes to freezing guidance, the total
avoidable household food waste had been reduced by 21% by 2012, saving consumers
almost £13 billion37.
University of Nottingham 12 March 2015
Dr Marcos David Ferreira from the Brazilian Corporation of Agricultural Research
(Embrapa):
“Postharvest food loss reduction is one of the main issues of this century. When food is
thrown away, as food loss or waste, it is not only the produce that is wasted, but also labour,
energy and water. I believe the whole food chain will have to be more conscious about this,
from grower to consumer. Considerable changes can be done, with low investment, by
training people in the supply chain, as well as increasing consumer involvement.”
2.1 Summary
While figures vary, around a third of food production is lost or wasted.
The scale of global hunger and hidden hunger is significant.
Reducing perishable food loss in developing countries could improve this situation,
especially for hidden hunger.
The causes of food loss and solutions to reduce it are complex and varied suggesting
there is no one solution that is appropriate in all cases and countries.
The rest of the report highlights the myriad causes of food loss, the drivers for change and
the potential solutions. Clearly the scale of food loss is significant but it varies across
sectors. Reducing food loss in the grain and cereals sector, for example, would increase
availability of calories but would do little for the micronutrient levels of those consuming
the grains. Equally, there is little need of cold chain support for grains and cereals.
To reflect the fact that reducing loss is not simply about increasing calorie intake, we focus
on the fresh fruit and vegetable sector. The level of potential improvement in micronutrient
levels arising from reduction in loss in this sector is significantly higher than in grains and
cereals and also would benefit more squarely from cold chain technologies in helping this
goal to be achieved. As such, perishable foods will form the central focus of the rest of the
current report. Further, through the use of case studies we highlight how solutions vary
across the globe and along supply chains.
University of Nottingham 13 March 2015
3. Food loss and wasteterminology and the study
3.1 Terminology
The terminologies of food loss and waste vary considerably in the literature, as explained in
detail in a report by HLPE (2014)14. Many authors make a distinction between loss and waste
where:
Food loss is food that has decreased in quality and is no longer fit for human
consumption due to inadequate supply chain systems.
Food waste generally relates to behavioural issues and is often defined as edible
food that has been unutilised as a result of human action or inaction30.
However, food waste or wastage are also frequently used as a generic terms for both waste
and loss which can add to the confusion.
The definitions of loss and waste can be simplified to what stage the food is lost or wasted
so that food waste refers only to consumers and food loss relates to all stages prior to the
consumer level. The HLPE report uses the following definitions14:
Food loss and waste (FLW) refers to a decrease, at all stages of the food chain from
harvest to consumption in mass, of food that was originally intended for human
consumption, regardless of the cause.
Food losses (FL) refer to a decrease, at all stages of the food chain prior to the
consumer level, in mass, of food that was originally intended for human
consumption, regardless of the cause.
Food waste (FW) refers to food appropriate for human consumption being discarded
or left to spoil at consumer level regardless of the cause.
Food quality loss or waste (FQLW) refers to the decrease of a quality attribute of
food (nutrition, aspect, etc.), linked to the degradation of the product, at all stages of
the food chain from harvest to consumption.
A further problem with these definitions is whether the non-edible parts of food are
included within the figures relating to food loss or waste. To remove the uncertainty, some
authors refer to avoidable or unavoidable food loss or waste32.
Food loss can also be categorised into quantitative food loss which is caused by a reduction
in weight caused by spillage or unintended losses and qualitative food losses which are
those that relate to unwanted changes in taste, colour, texture or nutrient value caused by
pests, inadequate climate control, handling or contamination18.
A further distinction that can be made is between physical and economic losses as defined
by Naziri (2014)38:
University of Nottingham 14 March 2015
Physical loss (PL) is something that disappears from the chain, thrown away
(regardless of whether this in unavoidable or not)
Economic loss (EL) is something that incurs some level of damage (e.g. partially
spoiled or broken cassava root) that determines a price discount or processing into
lower value product.
Additionally, these different terminologies often do not take into account what happens to
the food loss or waste. For example, food that may be labelled as lost as it is not ultimately
consumed by humans may in fact be consumed by animals, particularly in less developed
countries. This means that some of the food loss or waste actually remains within the food
chain.
The reminder of this report will use loss and waste in terms of the definitions provided by
HLPE (2014).
3.2 The study
The findings draw on a literature review but more centrally from a survey of 30 experts from
different geographical regions and areas of expertise to enable us to produce a more
accurate picture of where food is lost in the supply chain and what measures can be
implemented to reduce this loss.
In this study we have focused particularly on the loss of perishable foods, such as meat, fish,
fruit, vegetables and dairy products. We have explored the entire (potential cold chain)
process from harvesting or slaughtering all the way through to the point of supply to the
consumer.
The first survey round asked a number of general questions as to the extent and causes of
perishable food loss. The experts were then asked how food loss in the perishable supply
chain could be reduced in their region and the financial costs associated with these
approaches. Finally, the experts were asked to identify the possible approaches to
unavoidable food loss utilisation.
One of the main findings from the first round was the significant lack of data in many areas.
The experts were, therefore, asked to identify the areas most in need of new or additional
data. Due to the many differences between developing and developed countries, the
second round questionnaires were divided into separate surveys for either developing or
developed countries.
Appendix 1 has the full list of the survey questions.
University of Nottingham 15 March 2015
3.3 Summary
There is some blurring of the terms for food waste and food loss in the literature.
We make a clear distinction between food loss and food waste for this report.
It is an important distinction to make in that the implications of focusing on reducing
food loss are more apparent in developing countries whereas food waste reduction
is more relevant for developed countries.
The survey of experts helps frame this discussion of causes and possible outcomes
and helps to shape the findings outlined in the rest of the report.
The next section outlines the main causes of perishable food loss in developing and
developed countries based on the survey work and literature search.
University of Nottingham 16 March 2015
4. The causes of perishable food loss
In identifying the causes of perishable food loss it is extremely important to make a
distinction between a focus on developed countries and developing countries. This is not
only as factors vary but the solutions vary too so there needs to be appropriate care taken in
exploring the causes. We begin with developing countries.
4.1 Developing countries
Perishable food loss in developing countries is often reported as being between 20 and
50%12,39,40, with some studies reporting losses as high as 80%17. There are a number of
interconnected causes of perishable food loss such as, poor harvesting practices, little or no
cold chain, poor infrastructure such as bad roads or unreliable electricity and unhelpful
governmental policies.
4.1.1 Harvesting practices
Many of the causes of food loss in developing countries start with poor harvesting practices.
Some of the most common harvesting practices that can cause food loss include:
Poor harvest timing - wrong harvesting period e.g. when it’s too hot leading to
dehydration, or harvesting when the crop is too ripe. It is important to harvest food
at the correct time as the quality can only ever be maintained and not improved
after harvest 41.
Poor harvesting methods - where food is left in the field.
Harvesting equipment - use of substandard or dirty equipment, for example packing
fruit or vegetables into plastic bags or broken crates which lead to the produce being
bruised. Dirty equipment will contaminate the food.
Poor hygiene - for example the use of dirty hands when milking effects milk quality
Unhygienic harvesting area - for example milking dairy animals in an open, dirty area
especially when it is raining, where mud can get into the milk.
Poor sorting and grading methods - perishable foods are particularly sensitive to
temperatures so if exposed for long periods when sorting and grading the quality will
deteriorate. Mixing high and low quality produce together will result in an overall
deterioration of quality. If pests or diseases are not detected during harvesting and
grading they will progressively affect quality.
Poor stock rotation - failure to maintain a ‘first in, first out’ policy can lead to old
produce going bad if it is not marketed promptly.
Contamination - mixing of produce with other products or equipment/products.
Various goods are sometimes mixed in the same truck without considering the
effects on the produce, for example, transporting farm inputs such as fertilizer
together with food to be sent to the market. The trucks are also often dirty.
Mechanical damage of produce - when produce is packed into large containers
resulting in the produce at the bottom of the container is crushed.
University of Nottingham 17 March 2015
4.1.2 The cold chain
Perishable food quickly deteriorates and spoils after it has been harvested or slaughtered.
The most effective way to slow down the rate of spoilage is lowering the produce
temperature, for example, the same amount of deterioration can occur in one hour at 25oC
as in one week at 1oC for many horticultural commodities42. However, in many areas of the
less developed world, the cold chain is limited or does not exist43.
Table 1 shows the impact of temperature on the storage potential of different fresh foods.
These figures were derived from the general rule that most degradation processes (which
lead to a loss in colour, flavour, nutrients and textural quality) double their rate for each
increase of 10oC, known as the Q10 quotient44. Microbial growth and water loss can also be
reduced by lowering the temperature at which foods are stored and transported.
Table 1. Predicted loss of storage potential increases as handling temperatures increase
for fresh food commonly handled at ambient temperatures in developing countries.
Adapted from Kitinoja (2013)24.
Food product
At optimum cold
temperature
Optimum
temperature +
10oC
Optimum
temperature +
20oC
Optimum
temperature +
30oC
Fresh fish
10 days at 0oC
4-5 days at 10oC
1-2 days at 20oC
A few hours at
30oC
Milk
2 weeks at 0oC
7 days at 10oC
2-3 days at 20oC
A few hours at
30oC
Fresh green
vegetables
1 month at 0oC
2 weeks at 10oC
1 week at 20oC
Less than 2 days
at 30oC
Potatoes
5-10 months at
4-12oC
Less than 2
months at 22oC
Less than 1
month at 32oC
Less than 2
weeks at 42oC
Mangoes
2-3 weeks at
13oC
1 week at 23oC
4 days at 33oC
2 days at 43oC
Apples
3-6 months at -
1oC
2 months at
10oC
1 month at 20oC
A few weeks at
30oC
4.1.3 Market conditions
The majority of farmers in developing countries rely on rain for production. This can lead to
excess production after the rains. This applies to both horticultural produce and dairy,
where there is high milk production after the rains due to increased fodder. Many
horticultural products also have very short harvest seasons, for example almost all mangoes
from the Ivory Coast are harvested within a 4 to 6 week period in April and May, resulting in
an overabundance of the fruit, with few storage facilities available to growers. The
production driven market, as opposed to market driven production, leads to considerably
lower prices for farmers and high levels of loss due to the lack of cold storage.
University of Nottingham 18 March 2015
The marketing systems are often complex and fragmented with many different stages in the
supply chain. Almost 90% of horticultural transactions in India are brokered by commission
agents who take a commission in the range of 2.5-6%45. The multiple layers of middlemen
can lead to a cost inflation of over 250%46. The inefficiencies along the entire chain then
result in high consumer prices.
Most agricultural products are traded in open-air markets, with very little cold storage,
potentially exposing the products to high temperatures, causing the food to deteriorate
rapidly, resulting in further losses.
4.1.4 Infrastructure
Poor infrastructure greatly hampers the movement and storage of food47. Poor quality
roads mean that it will take far longer for fresh produce to reach markets (Figure 1), while in
the rainy season roads may become impassable so the food cannot make it to market. Food
is often transported in uncovered trucks so dust and smoke from the roads will affect
produce quality. The food is also exposed to the sun which will lead to dehydration.
Moreover, there is a greater chance of the produce being damaged on rough roads,
particularly if incorrect packaging is used (for example, bags instead of plastic crates).
David Williams, Chartered Engineer, UK:
“I have visited numerous crop stores in countries including the former Soviet Union (Russian
Federation, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrghyzstan, Georgia), Africa (Tanzania and Zambia), Iraq,
Afghanistan and DPR Korea where a lack of reliable electrical supplies was a major limiting
factor. In Southern Afghanistan, a programme in which I worked installed small scale cold
storage facilities for grapes, pomegranates and vegetables. These were not successful
because there was no reliable main power supply and the cost of importing diesel through a
war zone to run generators increased the cost of power to unsustainable levels [for storage
of primary products].
A much larger programme erected a large cold store in Kandahar with a great deal of
publicity. To my knowledge it has never been used for the same reason of a lack of reliable
and affordable electrical power. The military has attempted to refurbish the local hydro-
electric station, but 8 years on, it still is not in action. I was hired to commission several fruit
processing units in Northern Afghanistan, these also failed as none of the sites had access to
either potable water or to electricity.
I visited a number of small scale food processing plants in three regions of Tanzania as part
of a USAID funded study. The lack of reliable electrical power was a major problem, but so
was the lack of potable water. We found that the majority of water being used for food
processing was badly contaminated with all kinds of dirt and potential pathogens, meaning
that even if the crop was harvested in good condition by the farms, it was badly
contaminated by the processors. Unfortunately they didn't have any alternative supply.
University of Nottingham 19 March 2015
Approximately 2.6 billion people lack access to affordable and reliable energy services48,49.
18% of developing Asia does not have access to electricity50. In many areas, processing
facilities (and even state of the art equipment provided by international donors) can be idle
for days due to a lack of power. In some countries, such as Kazakhstan or the DPR Korea,
power is controlled by politicians and is only available in rural areas for limited periods. The
cost of importing diesel or setting up hydroelectric or solar power stations in rural areas or
war torn regions is often unsustainably high which results in storage facilities that have been
built standing idle (See box below). Electric power is frequently even more costly in outlying
provinces than in the larger cities51.
4.1.5 Government policy
It is often the case that weakly defined or implemented regulations can impede innovation
and trade. Country specific legislation can have an impact on food losses, for example, in
India truck drivers have to stop at each state border to obtain approval to continue driving
while there are numerous roadblocks in Uganda, lengthening journey times considerably45.
A government imposed limit on farm size in India52 creates difficulties in investment while
restrictions on farmers selling directly to retailers cause many additional layers in the supply
chain. In Kenya levies are applied per package rather than by weight which encourages the
use of large bags and consequent overfilling53.
Figure 1. A road in Liberia, Source: USAID’s Food and Enterprise Development.
University of Nottingham 20 March 2015
Figure 2. Milk being transported in Uganda. Source: Nick Morgan (Global78)
Figure 3. Wholesale fish market in Beijing. Source: Charlie Winkworth-Smith
University of Nottingham 21 March 2015
4.2 Developed countries
Perishable food losses in the developed world are generally low due to extensive cold
chains, advanced logistics and more efficient farming methods. However, out-grading,
improper handling, overproduction, uncertainties in demand and breaks in the cold chain
can all contribute to food losses.
4.2.1 Field losses
To ensure they do not fall foul of retailer penalties or changes in demand, growers often
overproduce. It may therefore be uneconomical to harvest the extra produce resulting in it
being left in the field or diverted to a secondary market such as processing or animal feed.
Low market prices can similarly result in growers leaving food in the field if the costs of
harvest (labour, transport etc.) cannot be recovered29. Fields that are left unharvested are
known as “walk-bys”54. Disease or the increasingly variable climate may also cause field
losses. In the US, approximately 7% of all planted fields go unharvested every year55.
Exclusive contracts can also mean that growers are unable to sell excess produce to other
buyers while the cost of donating the surplus food to charity food banks can be prohibitively
expensive.
A study commissioned by the National Resources Defence Council (NRDC) of 16 large
commercial vegetable and fruit growers and packers in the US found that in some cases, up
to 30% of fields were not harvested, 1-4% of products were left in field after harvesting54.
The authors emphasize that due to the small size of the study, the results are preliminary
and anecdotal, but nevertheless it indicates that significant losses may be occurring within
the industry.
4.2.2 Out-grading
The rejection of food that does not meet the required specification (out-grading), due to
visual and sizing requirements demanded by consumers and retailers, is one of the major
causes of food loss in developed countries28,56,57. In the US, out-grading can lead to losses of
as much as 20-50%29 while an NRDC report found that 2-30% of fruit and vegetables were
removed during packing54. The retailer specifications are often inflexible and do not take
into account natural variability. While the food is perfectly edible, retailers claim that
consumers would be unwilling to purchase the produce.
Out-grading represents a significant aspect of food loss but is difficult to quantify as some
produce that has not met certain quality criteria may enter the food processing sector while
other produce may simply be left in the field57.
Table 2 shows how much food loss occurs at each stage of the supply chain for different
fruits and vegetables in the UK. On average, the levels of loss and waste are less than 10%
but can be as high as 25%58. Grading losses are particularly high for apples, onions, potatoes
and avocados. If the produce is out-graded it will often be sent to an alternative market,
University of Nottingham 22 March 2015
sent for animal feed or be ploughed back into the field. Only a small proportion in the UK
will be sent to landfill. The levels of loss and waste at retail level are much lower but the
food is often sent to landfill as it is in packaging. Segregation of the food from its packaging
is often needed before it can be sent for anaerobic digestion.
Table 2. Summary of resource maps detailing percentage loss and waste for eleven
different fruits and vegetables through the supply chain. Source: WRAP (2011)58.
Product
Field loss
(Central
range)
Grading
loss
Storage loss
Packing loss
Retail
waste
Strawberry
2-3%
1%
0.5%
2-3%
2-4%
Raspberry
2%
No data
No data
2-3%
2-3%
Lettuce
5-10%
No data
0.5-2%
1%
2%
Tomato
5%
7%
No data
3-5%
2.5-3%
Apple
5-25%
5-25%
3-4%
3-8%
2-3%
Onion
3-5%
9-20%
3-10%
2-3%
0.5-1%
Potato
1-2%
3-13%
3-5%
20-25%
1.5-3%
Broccoli
10%
3%
0%
0%
1.5-3%
Avocado
No data
30%
5%
3%
2.5-5%
Citrus
No data
3%
No data
0.1-0.5%
2-2.5%
Banana
No data
3%
No data
0-3%
2%
4.2.3 Uncertainties in forecasting demand
Overproduction and oversupply, caused by uncertainties in forecasting demand, is another
major cause of food loss and waste in developed countries. Sudden changes, for example in
the weather, can shift consumer demand. Growers, suppliers or manufacturers often
overproduce due to penalty clauses that can be imposed by retailers.
Uncertainties in demand are particularly problematic for collective catering where staff are
unable to know how many guests there will be each day. There is also little ability in
changing portion sizes to adapt to demand.
4.2.4 Improper handling/loading/temperature
If perishable food is mishandled, for example, by using the wrong type of packaging or using
the wrong temperature setting, food losses will occur downstream. A common issue seen in
the reefer industry is where many different products are loaded into the same container.
This can then affect the hibernation of the products during transportation if they have
different respiration rates or if they are sensitive to different temperatures. Incorrect
storage during transportation will limit the lifespan of the product at retail. It is therefore
often difficult to quantify losses that occur during transit and they are instead attributed to
retail.
Even when a cold chain is in place there may be serious temperature fluctuations if there
are breaks in the cold chain59. Figure 4 shows the temperature of an air shipment from
University of Nottingham 23 March 2015
Europe to the USA where, although the instructions were to keep the temperature between
2oC and 8oC it actually varied from -1oC to 26oC. With such large changes in temperature
perishable food is likely to be damaged. Purfresh have estimated that 20-30% of quality
losses during shipping are due improper temperature or atmosphere in the perishable cold
chain60.
Trucks that deliver to smaller retailers and foodservice operators can still be unrefrigerated.
This may be due to cost factors or the belief that this ‘short delivery system’ doesn’t have as
big of an impact on loss. However, refrigeration during the ‘last mile’ is absolutely essential.
Figure 4. Temperature fluctuations in an air freight shipment with the instruction to
maintain temperatures between 2oC and 8oC. From Heap (2006)61.
4.2.5 Other causes of food loss
Food loss or waste may occur in the food production stage where there are processing
errors or excessive waste from manual or automated trimming62. Low staffing levels or a
lack of skilled employees (i.e. butchers) can lead to further loss and waste.
Retailer practices can also affect food loss, for example, when product displays are kept full
resulting in produce having to be thrown out at night. There are further problems with the
use of sell by dates (product quality) rather than use by dates (product safety). Products are
thrown away if they are near their sell by date even if they are still perfectly edible.
Finally, there are many difficulties in donating surplus food to charity food banks due to
regulations, high costs, uncertainties in terms of liability and a legislative environment in
many countries that provides subsidy and support to anaerobic digestion rather than food
donation.
University of Nottingham 24 March 2015
4.3 Summary
Table 3 summarises the major causes of food loss described above in both
developing and developed countries.
Table 3. The major causes perishable of food loss.
Developing countries
Developed countries
Harvesting practices
Poor harvest timing
Poor harvesting methods where food is
left in the field
Substandard harvesting equipment
Poor hygiene (e.g. dirty hands or
containers)
Poor sorting
Lack of preservation techniques and
technologies
Rain-fed agricultural production
A lack of knowledge about low cost post-
harvest techniques that can reduce loss
Inappropriate packaging
Delays in handling
Rough handling /mechanical damage
Infrastructure
Poor roads and transportation links
Lack of reliable energy supply
Supply chain management
Lack of quality control in managing post-
harvest collection and storage
Lack of sufficient systems controls in
processing/packaging of food
Failures in operation and maintenance of
storage facilities
Poor record keeping
Government and policy
Poor regulations that impedes
innovation and trade
Lack of unified and coherent national
policies
Lack of market mechanisms to reward
infrastructure/cold chain investments
Poor financing and Government
intervention during bumper harvest and
peak seasons
Field losses
Overproduction
Crop damage (weather/pests)
Out-grading
Rejection of food due to aesthetic or size
defects
Inconsistent cold chain
Poor temperature management
Breaks in the cold chain
Manufacturing and processing
Processing errors
Excessive waste from manual or
automated trimming
Handling
Improper handling
Mechanical damage
Long transportation times
Retailer practices
Penalty clauses levied on growers.
Exclusive contracts
Variation of purchase contract terms in
last hours before supply
Poor stock rotation
Overstocked product displays
Low staffing levels
Lack of skilled employees
Food dates
Use of sell by dates rather than use by
dates
Difficulties in donating surplus food
University of Nottingham 25 March 2015
Section 7 will explore some of the ways of dealing with these various factors to help
reduce perishable food loss. In the following section we explore the potential value of
reducing fruit and vegetable loss in terms of both calorific and micronutrient content.
University of Nottingham 26 March 2015
5. The potential value of reducing fruit and vegetable loss
A number of studies have looked at the effect of reducing food loss in terms of calorific
content2,13,63. Many fruit and vegetables are relatively low in energy compared to cereals so
their impact in reducing hunger is also comparatively low, indeed Munesue, et al. (2014) do
not include them in their calculations due to their small contribution to the dietary energy
supply. It is useful, however, to also consider their micronutrient content.
Micronutrient deficiencies, commonly referred to as hidden hunger, affect around 2 billion
people worldwide4,5. Around 1.2 billion people have a weakened immune system due to zinc
deficiency, 1.6 billion people suffer from anaemia caused by a lack of iron, 1.8 billion people
are affected by iodine deficiency which can cause brain damage in new-borns and reduce
mental capacity while 190 million pre-school age children and 19 million pregnant women
are at risk of severe visual impairment or blindness due to vitamin A deficiency64. The
predominantly cereal based diets of many in the developing world are deficient in
micronutrients due to the low intake of the more expensive fruits, vegetables and foods of
animal origin. A varied diet is essential to provide micronutrients65.
Micronutrient deficiency a definition
“A form of undernourishment that occurs when intake or absorption of vitamins and
minerals is too low to sustain good health and development in children and normal physical
and mental function in adults. Causes include poor diet, disease, or increased micronutrient
needs not met during pregnancy and lactation.” from the 2014 Global Hunger Index64
The Micronutrient Initiative has identified hidden hunger as a global problem of enormous
importance that is as yet little recognised66. It also has an economic aspect, with some
reports estimating that on average, a country’s GDP can decrease by about 1% due to the
health consequences of micronutrient deficiencies66.
Table 4 shows a number of micronutrient indicators for China, India, Pakistan and Kenya. A
government report looking at the nutrition status of Pakistan in 2011 found that the vitamin
A status had deteriorated in the last decade and there had been little or no improvement in
other areas linked to micronutrient deficiencies67. The report found that stunting, wasting
and micronutrient malnutrition are endemic in Pakistan. Similarly, micronutrient deficiency
in Kenya is a serious concern, with nearly three quarters of children under five suffering
from anaemia while for infants less than six months old, this percentage may be as high as
99.5%68,69. Iron deficiency anaemia is one of the most serious public health problems in
India, with an estimated 50-70% of women and children affected70-73. More than 70% of
pre-school children consume less than half the recommended daily intake of iron or vitamin
A. Despite the recent socioeconomic reforms in China, poor iron and zinc levels are still
prevalent in Chinese pre-school children, with 38% having low levels of zinc74. Another study
found that 64.6% of children under the age of 11 had insufficient zinc intake75.
University of Nottingham 27 March 2015
Table 4. Selected micronutrient indicators by country. Adapted from Micronutrient
Initiative’s global report (2009)66.
Proportion
of pre-school
age children
with
anaemia
Proportion
of pregnant
women with
anaemia
Proportion
of non-
pregnant
women
with
anaemia
Proportion
of pre-school
age children
with vitamin
A deficiency
Proportion
of
population
at risk of
inadequate
intake of zinc
China
20.0
28.9
19.9
9.3
15.7
India
74.3
49.7
52.0
62.0
31.3
Pakistan
50.9
39.1
27.9
12.5
11.1
Kenya
69.0
55.1
46.4
84.4
32.9
There are a number of ways to combat hidden hunger, such as food fortification, where
essential vitamins and minerals are added to foods such as flour or salt, and
supplementation, where vulnerable groups are provided with vitamin and mineral tablets,
capsules or syrups66. Increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables is perhaps one of
the most important ways of addressing hidden hunger.
Affognon, et al. (2015) have recently conducted a meta-analysis of the amount of food loss
in Sub Saharan Africa76. They found that fruit and vegetable loss was 55.9 ± 25.4% and
43.5% ± 16.6% respectively, without any intervention. With the adoption of various
interventions such as improved handling, new storage structures, processing or chemical
treatments, the postharvest losses were found to reduce to 24.8 ± 15.6% and 10.7 ± 13.8%
for fruits and vegetables respectively. The use of interventions was, therefore, able to lead
to loss reductions of 56% and 75%. Whilst it must be noted that these figures are for Sub
Saharan Africa where the levels of food loss are particularly high, they nonetheless show
that large reductions in postharvest losses of fruits and vegetables are possible.
By weight, fruit and vegetables have the highest levels of loss and waste globally at 44% of
the total, yet account for just 13% of total loss and waste in terms of energy content2. It is
useful to explore the micronutrient content of fruit and vegetables to better understand the
implications of reducing food loss.
5.1 Method
We have investigated the micronutrient content of 46 types of fruits and vegetables, using
the 2012 production figures from FAOSTAT, to assess the value of reducing fruit and
vegetable loss in China, India, Pakistan and Kenya.
There are a number of different estimates as to the scale of fruit and vegetable loss, for
example, estimates vary from: 10-30%77-79 in China; 10-50%22,80-82 in India; 15-40%22,83,84 in
Pakistan; 20-50%85,86 in Kenya.
University of Nottingham 28 March 2015
Our aim with these calculations is to estimate the potential amount of energy or
micronutrients that could be saved if fruit and vegetable loss is reduced. Owing to the
difficulties in estimating the total levels of loss that could potentially be reduced, because of
the number of varied ways this could be achieved, we have based our calculations on the
assumption that fruit and vegetable loss could be reduced by at least a quarter (25%) in the
countries we have investigated, with the use of appropriate interventions.
Due to the broad range of estimates of loss in the literature, for this study, an upper limit of
30% loss and a lower limit of 10% loss per annum have been used, so in other words we
have calculated the calorific or micronutrient value of 7.5% or 2.5% of the total fruit and
vegetable production of China, India, Pakistan and Kenya.
Unavoidable waste, such as peel, stalks or outer leaves has been accounted for by assuming
that 30% of the produce weight has zero nutritional value. For example, while production
figures will include the whole weight of a banana (i.e. peel and flesh), we have estimated
that the peel (unavoidable waste) is 30% of the weight. This is a very broad assumption as
the unavoidable waste fraction for each fruit or vegetable will be different.
In order to present the data in relatable terms, the total calorific and micronutrient content
that could be saved has been has been converted into the total number of people that could
have sufficient intake of calories or nutrients from the fruits and vegetables that are saved
by reducing loss by 25%. The average nutrient requirement is based on that of an adult male
aged 19-30 years old for a year. This clearly then does not take into account the different
dietary requirement for different age groups or genders and particularly pregnant women.
Further, people’s diets obviously include other food types such as cereals.
A number of other broad assumptions have also had to be made:
The calorific and micronutrient content of raw fruits or vegetables are used (from
the USDA Nutrient database)
Calories are directly related to the number of people that can be fed
The average calories needed per person are 2100 kcal
Protein deficiency is not taken into account87
Changes in food prices are not taken into account
The figures presented here are therefore somewhat abstract and should be read with
caution, but we hope they demonstrate the importance of reducing fruit and vegetable food
loss.
Please see Appendix 2 for a full list of the fruits and vegetables analysed as well as an
example calculation.
University of Nottingham 29 March 2015
5.2 Results and discussion
The values presented in Table 5 show the potential amount of food that could be saved if
fruit and vegetable loss was reduced by 25%. Due to the uncertainties in the actual amount
of food loss in each country analysed, we have estimated a relatively broad range of loss,
from 10% to 30%. The figures calculated show that even at the lowest level of loss, the total
amount of fruits of vegetables that could be saved in China, India, Pakistan and Kenya, if loss
was reduced by 25%, may be 17 million tonnes a year, while at the upper limit of loss this
value could be as high as 53 million tonnes. To put this in perspective, the total European
consumption of fresh fruit in 2011 was just over 50 million tonnes while the total fresh
vegetables consumption was about 60 million tonnes88.
Table 5. The potential amount of food, by weight, or calorie and nutrient intake that could
be saved if fruit and vegetable loss was reduced by a quarter, for a lower limit of loss of
10% and an upper limit of loss of 30%.
Weight of
food (million
tonnes)
Sufficient intake for an adult male (aged 19-30) for a year,
based on recommended daily allowances (millions of
people)
Calories
Iron
Zinc
Vitamin A
China
13-40
4.7-14
17-50
5.5-16
20-60
India
3.8-11
2.3-6.8
5.1-15
2.3-7.0
2.8-8.3
Pakistan
0.25-0.77
0.16-0.48
0.26-0.77
0.11-0.33
0.33-0.99
Kenya
0.17-0.52
0.10-0.29
0.14-0.41
0.06-0.17
0.16-0.49
Figure 5 shows the potential amount of calories or selected micronutrients that could be
saved by reducing fruit and vegetable loss by up to 25%. The data for Pakistan and Kenya
are not shown due to their much smaller values. In order to present the data in more
relatable terms, Figure 6 converts the number of calories or micronutrients that could be
saved into the number of people that would be able to fulfil their average daily
recommended intake for a year. As these figures are calculated using the recommended
daily intake for an adult male (aged 19-30), the values would be likely to change somewhat
if corrected for each country’s demographics. The results are also calculated using the
calorific or micronutrient content of raw fruits and vegetables. Cooking and processing the
produce would, therefore, considerably alter the levels of micronutrients, but due to the
many ways fruit and vegetables are processed (if at all) before consumption, estimating
these differences would present considerable difficulties.
It is interesting to compare the calorific and micronutrient contents of fruit and vegetables.
The total calorific content that could potentially be saved if loss was reduced by a quarter in
the four countries we have investigated would be the equivalent of enough energy for
between 7-22 million people for a year. This figure is considerably lower when compared to
University of Nottingham 30 March 2015
the benefits of the micronutrient content of the fruit and vegetables, having the equivalent
iron content for 22-66 million people and vitamin A content for 23-70 million people.
As will be described in Section 7, there are a number of approaches that will help reduce
perishable food loss such as better packaging, processing and farming practices,
implementing or improving the cold chain, upgrading infrastructure, utilising new
information technologies, increased access to credit, better regulations and education, as
well as country specific measures described in Sections 11, 12, 13 and 14.
Figure 5. The potential value of reducing fruit and vegetable loss in China (blue) and India
(green) in terms of (a) energy (b) iron) (c) zinc and (d) vitamin A. Solid lines represent the
upper limits of loss of 30% and the dotted lines represent the lower limits of loss of 10%.
The data for Pakistan and Kenya are not shown due to their much smaller values.
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
0 5 10 15 20 25
Energy saved (trillion kcal)
Loss reduction (%)
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
140
160
0 5 10 15 20 25
Iron saved (billion mg)
Loss reduction (%)
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
0 5 10 15 20 25
Zinc saved (billion mg)
Loss reduction (%)
0
5
10
15
20
25
0 5 10 15 20 25
Vitamin A saved (trillion µg)
Loss reduction (%)
a
c
d
b
India (upper limit)
China (lower limit)
China (upper limit)
India (lower limit)
University of Nottingham 31 March 2015
Figure 6. The potential value of reducing fruit and vegetable loss in China (blue) and India
(green) in terms of sufficient (a) energy (b) iron) (c) zinc or (d) vitamin A to meet the
average daily requirements for adult males (aged 19-30). Solid lines represent the upper
limits of loss of 30% and the dotted lines represent the lower limit of 10%. The data for
Pakistan and Kenya are not shown due to their much smaller values.
From these simple calculations we hope to have shown that it is useful to think about the
micronutrient content of food, and in particular fruit and vegetables. This highlights the
pressing need to reduce global perishable food loss. As section 7 will show, one aspect
associated with this is the role of better cold chain function and management, but this is
only one part of a wider group of factors that need considering.
Further work needs to be done to assess the potential micronutrient value of other types of
perishable foods such as meat, fish or dairy loss.
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
0 5 10 15 20 25
Iron content (million people)
Loss reduction (%)
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
0 5 10 15 20 25
Zinc content (million people)
Loss reduction (%)
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
0 5 10 15 20 25
Calorie content (million people)
Loss reduction (%)
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
0 5 10 15 20 25
Vitamin A content (million people)
Loss reduction (%)
a
c
d
b
India (upper limit)
China (upper limit)
China (lower limit)
India (lower limit)
University of Nottingham 32 March 2015
5.3 Summary
Focussing simply on energy gain from reducing food loss can mask the issue of low
micronutrient levels in the food consumed by poorer people.
Reducing food loss in key food groups, notably fruit and vegetables can help provide
significant improvement in micronutrient availability for consumers.
If food loss was reduced by 25% in the four countries studied, the benefits of the
micronutrient content of the fruit and vegetables would provide the equivalent iron
content for up to 66 million people and vitamin A content for up to 70 million
people. This highlights the pressing need to reduce global perishable food loss.
What though are the consequences for reducing such loss? The next section briefly
examines some implications.
University of Nottingham 33 March 2015
6. Implications of reducing food loss and waste
By 2050, the global population will reach 9 billion. If current levels of food loss and waste
are maintained, food production will need to increase by as much as 70% in developing
countries, requiring investment of $83 billion a year1. Reducing the levels of loss and waste
will have a large impact on food security, rural income and the environment.
6.1 Increased food availability
Reducing the levels of food loss and waste should lower the levels of global food insecurity,
particularly in the less developed world where the majority of undernourished people live.
Kummu, et al. (2012) have estimated that if the current minimum loss and waste
percentages in each food supply chain step were applied globally there would be enough
food to feed one billion people13. Lipinski, et al. (2013) have estimated that by reducing loss
and waste from 24% currently to 12%, by 2050 the world would need 1,314 trillion kcal less
food per year2.
Munesue, et al. (2014) have calculated that by reducing the levels of food loss and waste by
up to 50% in developed regions, the number of undernourished people would decrease by
up to 63.3 million in developing regions (7.4% of undernourished people in 2007), with 25.8
million in Southeast Asia, 20.5 million in Eastern Asia and 10.6 million in Sub-Saharan
Africa63. There would also be a decrease in the harvested area, water utilisation and
greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production. Reducing loss and waste in the
developed would also help combat hunger in developed countries. The Natural Resources
Defence Council (NRDC) has estimated that if food losses could be decreased by 15% there
would be enough food to feed up to 25 million Americans each year29.
Reducing perishable food loss and waste will increase the availability of fruits, vegetables,
meat, dairy and seafood. More dietary variables will help to combat micronutrient
deficiencies (hidden hunger).
6.2 Food safety
Reducing food loss and waste will be achieved in some part better hygiene, handling and
refrigeration. Biosensors and trackers will also enable awareness of food safety issues. This
should help improve food safety and limit the number of food-borne diseases.
6.3 Food prices
The economic retail value of food loss and waste is estimated to be about US$ 1 trillion,
equivalent to twice the GDP of Norway89. Food loss is estimated to reduce income for 470
million smallholder farmers and 290 million other downstream agricultural workers by at
least 15%1,12.
University of Nottingham 34 March 2015
If food losses are substantially reduced there will be a knock on effect to food commodity
prices. Munesue, et al. (2014) analysed 30 different commodities and found that if there
was a 50% reduction in food losses in developed regions, all international prices would
decrease63. This would result in an increase in the purchasing power of the poor in
developing countries and therefore food consumption in the less developed world would
increase. There would however be problems for agricultural producers in developing
countries.
Lower food prices caused by loss reduction may negatively affect farmers in developing
countries; however, improving food quality through correct handling and storage should
help increase the prices farmers are able to get for their produce, especially if the food is of
export quality.
Investment in cold storage could bring a long term benefit to smallholder farmers. The
ability to store food rather than having to sell their produce immediately will mean that the
farmers could avoid selling their food at lower prices when there is a glut in the market.
Apps that are currently being developed will give farmers more information on food prices
which will allow them to make far more informed decisions as to when they sell their
produce. This could help counter the high levels of price fluctuations that are so deleterious
to smallholder farmers90.
Clearly there is no way to completely stop price fluctuations due to seasonality, disease or
bad weather but reducing food loss would to some degree help stabilise prices. Reducing
price shocks with better harvesting practices, handling and storage would help farmers
obtain credit as they have more predictable incomes. This should then increase their
investment in further storage options, thus producing a virtuous cycle.
6.4 Environment
Food loss and waste contribute to greenhouse gas emissions by both the decomposition of
wasted food in landfill and even more importantly the embedded emissions associated with
its production, processing, transport and retailing91,92. The 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2e
attributed to food loss and waste places it as the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases
after China and the US93. Agriculture represents the largest human use of water94 and the
global footprint of wasted water is about 250 km3. The land required to produce all the
uneaten food is estimated to be as much as 1.4 billion hectares (3.45 billion acres), or 30%
of the world’s agricultural land area. Reducing food loss and waste would have an
enormously positive effect on the environment.
Monier (2011) has estimated that the EU generates around 90 million tonnes of food waste
each year, which can be broken down into manufacturing (39%), food service/catering
(14%), retail/wholesale (5%) and households (42%)95. Using a life cycle analysis the average
total emissions of each tonne was estimated to be at least 1.9 tonnes CO2e (with the
household sector presenting the most significant impact at 2.07 tonnes CO2e per tonne of
University of Nottingham 35 March 2015
food waste). The overall environmental impact was calculated to be at least 170 million
tonnes of CO2e and approximately 3% of total EU27 emissions in 2008. By 2020, due to
population growth, food waste has been forecast to rise to as much as 126 million tonnes
which would increase the related emissions to about 240 million tonnes by 202095.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has created a Waste Reduction Model (WARM)
that helps organisations track greenhouse gas96. This enables companies to compare their
emissions using different waste management practices such as source reduction, recycling,
combustion, composting and landfilling.
Dr Raymond Anthony, University of Alaska Anchorage
“For a large segment of the population in the United States, the urgency of the problem goes
unappreciated, especially the long term environmental impact of food loss and waste on
future generations awareness needs to be raised.
6.5 Summary
Reducing food loss can have significant effects on other aspects of the global economy.
Interventions to store and handle food more effectively to reduce loss can also raise
standards of hygiene and thus food safety.
Unintended consequences may be seen in the price of food in local markets as more
supply could drive down prices received by producers. Equally, better storage could help
spread income flows over a longer period thus ameliorating the very spiky nature of
income presently when entire crops must be sold immediately.
Current loss and waste creates greenhouse gases and thus reducing loss would appear
to be helpful in reducing such emissions. However, the development of new cold chain
solutions might add to emissions where no cold chain currently exists.
University of Nottingham 36 March 2015
7. Approaches to reducing food loss
Affognon, et al. (2015) conducted a meta-analysis of all the data available on post-harvest
losses of food in Sub-Saharan Africa from both the grey literature and journal articles76. As
Table 6 shows, food loss can be significantly reduced if interventions are introduced.
Perishable food loss can be drastically reduced, often with simple interventions and better
education. In this section we have identified a number of approaches to reducing food loss,
such as better harvesting practices, better packaging, processing, the adoption of a cold
chain and perhaps the most important part of any intervention, appropriate education and
training. Whilst many of these changes can happen at farm or retail level, a number of other
changes such as improved infrastructure, better regulations and access to credit will require
changes to government policy or large scale private sector investment.
Table 6. Food losses in Sub-Saharan Africa. Source: Affognon, et al. (2015)76.
Without any
intervention
With
intervention
Cereals
25.6 ± 27.4%
5.6 ± 5.4%
Pulses
23.5 ± 22.0%
2.1 ± 3.0%
Roots and tubers
43.7 ± 27.4%
7.0 ± 2.8%
Fruits
55.9 ± 25.4%
24.8 ± 15.6%
Vegetables
43.5 ± 16.6%
10.7 ± 13.8%
Fish
27.3 ± 14.3%
14.7 ± 11.9%
7.1 Smallholder commercialisation
A number of the harvesting practices mentioned in Section 4.1.1 will be improved with
better education, for example, better hygiene or harvesting crops at the optimum time.
However, the lack of access to credit means that many farmers are unable to buy the
equipment, irrigation or storage facilities needed to significantly reduce postharvest loss.
72% of the 570 million farms worldwide are less than one hectare and only 6% are larger
than 5 hectares. In South Asia 80% of the 125 million farm holdings have an average size of
0.6 hectares97. By comparison, in high income countries, 97% of the farms are over 5
hectares in size98. Agriculture in many parts of the developing world is based on semi-
subsistence smallholder farming. Farmers have little disposable income from which they can
invest in better equipment, fertilizer or crop varieties and due to a lack of connectivity they
are unable to reach more lucrative markets, such as export markets.
There are some advantages in smaller farms with manual harvesting, for example, little is
left in the fields due to poor villagers scavenging the leftovers or the food is diverted to sub-
value chains. In larger mechanised farms more food is likely to be left in the fields. However,
it is often not economically viable to purchase farm machinery or storage facilities for small
University of Nottingham 37 March 2015
holder farmers. Substandard harvesting equipment can lead to crops being damaged by
rough handling.
By commercialising smallholder farming, farmers will be able to generate larger revenues by
specialising in particular crops or livestock which will earn them a larger income99. They will
then be able to reinvest and improve the productivity of their farms (See Box).
However, it is important that commercialisation is achieved in a sustainable way where
there is ‘inclusive agricultural development’. For example, in some cases poor households
are forced to sell produce when they are desperate for cash, only to buy back food later in
the season when prices are higher100. By specialising, smallholder farmers will also become
more dependent on the market than subsistence oriented households, exposing them to
fluctuations in market prices101 so it is vital that they have access to market information,
particularly via new mobile platforms (See Section 7.6.2).
Contract farming, where retailers or wholesalers sign contracts with farmers to grow specific
crops and guarantee to buy the produce at a pre-agreed price allows much greater
predictability so that farmers are better able to get access to credit. Contract farming will
also ensure there is market driven production which will help avoid losses.
7.2 Better packaging
7.2.1 Returnable plastic crates
Food loss can be reduced significantly by making changes to the type of packaging that food
is stored and transported in. Currently, many fruits and vegetables are over packed, (for
example large wooden crates with as much as 50-60 kg of tomatoes have been used in
Ghana102) which can result in the food being crushed. Returnable plastic crates (RPCs) are an
attractive alternative to wooden crates or plastic bags.
The solid RPCs better protect food when it is transported on rough roads, with studies
showing a reduction in loss of mangoes and avocados from 30% to 6%103, while a further
report showed that losses of tomatoes in Afghanistan were reduced from 50% during
transport to just 5% with the use of RCPs104. The costs of RPCs are often much less than the
savings that can be made by reducing food loss and many countries (for example India, Sri
Lanka and Afghanistan) now offer subsidies to enable the purchase of RPCs. The benefits of
Smallholder commercialisation, as defined by Jayne, et al. (2011)100 refers to:
“a virtuous cycle in which farmers intensify their use of productivity-enhancing technologies
on their farms, achieve greater output per unit of land and labour expended, produce
greater farm surpluses (or transition from deficit to surplus producers), expand their
participation in markets, and ultimately raise their incomes and living standards.”
University of Nottingham 38 March 2015
RPCs are explained in detail by Kitinoja (2013)102 as well as a report by the World Packaging
Association (WPO) and the International Packaging Press Organisation (IPPO) in 2009105. The
Postharvest Education Foundation also offers a cost and benefit calculator102.
7.2.2 Modified atmosphere/active packaging
Advanced packaging such as modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) will help increase the
shelf life of many perishable foods by limiting their exposure to oxygen and water vapour
and so limit oxidation and water activity106. Active packaging can also allow the controlled
release of molecules107. Mathematical prediction modelling can now be used to correlate
respiration rates of produce with the permeability properties of the packaging films in order
to avoid anaerobic conditions which can lead to fermentation108.
MAP has been shown to delay fruit ripening and markedly reduce weight loss109. Currently
there is little use of modified or controlled atmosphere packaging in less developed
countries due to cost and the need for a reliable cold chain110.
7.2.3 Smart packaging
An alternative to use by dates may be smart packaging which will inform the consumer
when the food is no longer safe to eat111,112. For example, miniature gel sensors have
recently been developed to change colour at the same rate that milk goes off and costs just
a fraction of a cent113. The gels are designed to change colour from red to green which
corresponds to the rate of E coli growth or can be modified to monitor the growth rate of
other pathogens. Other smart packaging materials include ‘intelligent plastics’ which change
colour when oxygen has entered a pack, which will help indicate if a modified atmosphere
package (MAP) has been damaged. This technology has been further adapted to make
oxygen sensitive, solvent based inks114. New nanomaterials and nano-based antimicrobials
are also likely to have a big impact on food sustainability115.
7.2.4 Edible coatings
Edible coatings such as gum Arabic, alginate or chitosan slow down ripening by inhibiting
the migration of moisture, oxygen, carbon dioxide or aroma compounds, even at ambient
temperature116. For example, using 10% gum Arabic as an edible coating, the ripening
process of tomatoes can be delayed and the antioxidants can be preserved for up to 20 days
during storage at 20oC without any negative effects on postharvest quality117. It is important
to also include an antimicrobial agent to reduce the level of spoilage.
Edible coatings therefore provide an attractive alternative to the far more expensive
controlled atmosphere or hypobaric storage techniques.
University of Nottingham 39 March 2015
7.3 Improving the cold chain
Investment in the cold chain and its expansion will help significantly reduce perishable food
loss in developing countries24. At present this presents numerous difficulties due to the
highly fragmented nature of the cold chain in many countries. Relaxing investment
restrictions or the creation of national champions or organisations that bring together the
different players in the supply chain would help enormously. Better collaborations among
firms involved in the cold chain is needed to enhance efficiency and responsiveness118.
7.3.1 Pre-cooling
Pre-cooling is one of the most cost effective and efficient ways of preserving produce
quality. The respiration rate of fruit and vegetables increases approximately 2 to 3 fold for
every 10oC rise119. After harvesting, the rate of transpiration (the process by which heat is
dissipated) is dramatically reduced so heat from respiration accumulates rapidly120. Highly
perishable produce will deteriorate within hours of harvest if not cooled, for example, every
hour of delay in cooling strawberries harvested at 30oC will result in a 10% loss in shelf life42.
It is vital therefore that produce is cooled as quickly as possible after harvest. Even by just
putting crops under shade immediately after harvest will help prevent moisture loss, lower
the temperature and maintain quality for far longer than if the produce is left out in the sun.
Pre-cooling is required for all perishable foods before transport or storage as most
refrigerated trucks or storage rooms have neither the refrigeration capacity nor air
movement capability needed to rapidly cool produce straight from harvest41. Pre-cooling is
particularly important for crops with high respiration rates such as peas, asparagus or
broccoli. There are a number of different pre-cooling options, depending on the type of
product and their sensitivity to chilling or moisture, such as hydro-cooling, forced air pre-
cooling, vacuum cooling or simply packing in ice121,122.
7.3.2 Cold storage and transportation
In areas with little access to electricity, evaporative coolers are an affordable way of
prolonging the shelf life of tropical fruits and vegetables123. They are constructed by placing
a vessel containing the food inside a larger vessel. Water is poured into the gap between the
vessels and as the water evaporates, the inner vessel is cooled to a temperature significantly
lower than ambient temperature. In Nigeria, simple evaporative coolers, using wet sand
between two clay containers, can be constructed for less than US$ 2 and are able to
preserve tomatoes and guavas for up to 20 days which would have otherwise had a storage
life of just two days at ambient temperature2. In Cambodia and Lao, simple brick walled
evaporative coolers with moistened sawdust or sand have been found to decrease the
storage temperature by 1-10oC lower than ambient while increasing the relative humidity by
10-35%, reducing weight loss considerably124,125. Forced ventilation evaporative cooling
systems are more advanced and require extra investment than simple pots but are
considerably cheaper than mechanical compression refrigeration systems as they require a
University of Nottingham 40 March 2015
low initial investment and low installation and maintenance costs so are attractive for small
scale farmers or retailers126.
A cost effective alternative to buying commercial cold storage units is through the use of
CoolBots which adapt window style air conditioning units into cooling units. The full CoolBot
system (CoolBot controller, air conditioner, insulated room and electricity) costs about
US$2,000-3,000 which is less than half that of commercial cold storage units. USDA Porta-
Coolers, portable forced air cool rooms, cost approximately US$ 1,200 or less if using a used
air conditioning unit127. If temperatures of below 15oC are required then CoolBots can be
installed on the units.
For larger farms, reefer technology is a relatively inexpensive solution as a 40 foot reefer
container can be placed on the field during harvest.
Currently much of the food in developing countries is transported in open back trucks.
Ideally, reefer trucks should be used to transport produce from farm to market and so small
reefer vans could potentially benefit small farmers.
Joan Rosen from JC Rosen Resources, USA:
Trucks that deliver to smaller retailers and foodservice operators can still be unrefrigerated.
This may be due to cost factors or the belief that this ‘short delivery system’ doesn’t have as
big of an impact on loss. Better understanding of this latter part of the supply chain and its
needs, as well as education, could benefit temperature management and help cut food
losses.
7.3.3 Cold chain technology
As much as 15% of the total electricity produced worldwide is used for refrigeration and air
conditioning128. With the increased need for refrigeration, there is a real risk of hugely
increased carbon emissions if traditional fossil fuel powered cooling systems are used.
Liquid air or liquid nitrogen cooling units have huge potential as a more sustainable solution.
Surplus liquid nitrogen, a by-product of liquid oxygen production, is available in most
developing countries. An in depth insight into this technology is given in “A tank of coldby
IMechE 129. Carbon dioxide (CO2), a by-product from many industrial processes is one of the
most promising refrigerants due to its excellent thermodynamic and transport properties130.
With the lowest Global Warming Potential (one) of any natural refrigerant, CO2 refrigeration
systems are both energy efficient and environmentally sustainable.
Areas with the greatest need for refrigeration have the greatest potential for solar energy.
Solar refrigeration therefore may be a solution for rural areas with little access to mains
electricity as well as an alternative to fossil fuel powered refrigeration systems131. Cooling
can be achieved either with the use of photovoltaic (PV) panels which produce electricity to
power conventional refrigeration systems, or using the more efficient solar thermal
refrigeration where the refrigerant is directly heated by a solar collector132. Solar PV is the
University of Nottingham 41 March 2015
fastest growing energy technology, with production doubling every 2 years and costs
continually lowering133,134. Combined solar/biomass generators for refrigeration units may
be a cheaper alternative.
Advances in refrigeration technologies will lower the energy consumption and greenhouse
gas emissions associated with the cold chain. Perhaps one of the technologies with the
greatest potential for this will be the recovery of thermal energy from engine exhausts
which will be used to drive sorption systems, thermoacoustic refrigerators and for power
generation using thermoelectrics or turbogenerators135.
Superchilling food, whereby a minor part of the water in the product is frozen, enables a
much faster chilling process136. The small amount of ice also acts as a heat sink to absorb
heat from the surrounding environment without greatly altering the product temperature.
The shelf life of superchilled food can be prolonged by at least 1.4-4 times compared to
traditional chilling137. There are, however, some issues in microstructural changes to food
tissue due to ice crystal formation so superchilling may only be appropriate for certain types
of food.
7.3.4 Cold chain management
Management of the cold chain must also be improved, which can be achieved to some
degree by modelling food degradation138. Raab, et al. (2008) have produced a generic model
to predict the remaining shelf life of meat in different steps of the supply chain139 while
Rong, et al. (2011) have provided a mixed-integer linear programming model focused on
product quality with is strongly related to temperature throughout the supply chains which
will help support decision making140.
Other models have been produced which also include the discarding costs associated with
the disposal of spoiled food products141 or models based on the advancement of a Multi-
Temperature Joint Distribution System (MTJD)142. Montanari (2008) compared two different
cold chain management system approaches to choose the most cost effective logistics
configuration143.
Joshi, et al. (2011) have developed a benchmarking framework which will help companies
evaluate their cold chain performance using a Delphi-AHP-TOPSIS based methodology144.
This will enable companies to identify their strengths and weaknesses and ways to
potentially improvement performance. Another recent cold chain benchmarking model has
also been developed by Shabani, et al. (2012)145
7.4 Improved infrastructure
Large scale investment is needed in many developing countries to improve road and rail
networks as well as energy supplies47, for example, in 2010, the Asia Pacific region’s share of
University of Nottingham 42 March 2015
world energy consumption was a third but is estimated to rise to between 51-56% by
203550,134. A report by the Asian Development Bank in 2009 estimated that between 2010
and 2020, approximated US$ 8 trillion is needed in overall national infrastructure
investment in member countries, with US$ 4.1 trillion in energy and US$ 2.5 trillion in
transport infrastructure. McKinsey have estimated that US$ 1 trillion of this investment
could be open to private investors under public private partnerships (PPPs), particularly in
India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines146. In October 2014, the Asian
Infrastructure Investment Bank was launched which currently includes 21 countries, and is
backed by paid up capital of US$ 50 billion 147.
Transnational infrastructure projects are underway in some regions, for example, the ASEAN
(Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Highway Network will improve road links between
seven ASEAN countries (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and
Lao) to China. The ASEAN economic area requires US$ 60 billion in annual investments for
critical infrastructure. The ASEAN Infrastructure Fund, established by the Asian
Development Bank, has been set up to boost investment in the region’s infrastructure148. It
will provide loans about US$ 300 million a year to finance infrastructure projects.
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has recently drawn
attention to the infrastructure gap in the region149. Only a third of roads in most Latin
American countries are in good condition, except Argentina (80%) and Guatemala (75%)150.
Rural roads are in particularly bad condition, especially in Peru and Ecuador. Most of the
countries in the region have low rankings in the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global
Competitiveness Report, largely due to the region’s infrastructure deficit. ECLAC has
estimated that, between 2006 and 2020, the region needs to invest at least 7.9% of annual
GDP to close the gap with industrialised East Asian countries149. The cold chain sector has
grown rapidly in South America over the last two decades. It accounts for 30% of global
reefer exports, which equated to 30 million tons of perishable goods in 2011151. Reefer
capacity has increased by 200% between 2000 and 2012151.
7.4.1 Small scale infrastructure
Small scale infrastructure projects (i.e. projects that require less than US$ 30 million in
capital expenditure) such as rural roads, small scale processing facilities or small scale power
generators are vital yet there are often many difficulties in the provision of funding. The
responsibility of implementing these projects is regularly down to local governments which
have scarce resources and little access to international development money (which instead
goes directly to central government), or the private sector which may be unwilling to fund
the projects due to the high commercial risks152.
Pension funds in developing countries, which have grown from an estimated US$ 422 billion
in 2001 to US$ 1.4 trillion in 2010153, are growing rapidly in part due to the young
populations of most of these countries. The long term nature of pension funds make them
University of Nottingham 43 March 2015
ideally placed to invest in local infrastructure. Other institutional investors such as insurance
companies or mutual funds may also benefit from the long term returns of small scale
infrastructure investment which would help develop their local economy.
Bond, et al. (2012) have proposed a pooled financing approach for small rural
infrastructure152. This was first developed by the United Nations Capital Development
Fund’s ‘Local Finance Initiative’ in partnership with the Global Clearinghouse for
Development Finance in 2009. With risk mitigation tools and technical assistance, pooled
finance will incentivise the private sector over the long term. Local government expertise
would then identify the most important and economically viable infrastructure projects but
would not be burdened with municipal debt.
7.5 Processing
Fruits and vegetables that are unmarketable as they do not meet product specifications or
are physically damaged but still edible can be processed into value added products such as
juices, jams, jellies or dehydrated products154. This will increase their shelf-life by denaturing
enzymes and killing microorganisms. Processing will also provide an alternative route when
market prices for the raw commodities are low due to seasonal gluts. The United Nations
Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) has published a technology manual which
gives detailed methods, equipment needs and quality assurance practices for small-scale
fruit and vegetable processing155.
The demand for fruit and vegetable juice beverages has been increasing in recent years.
Between 2003 and 2009 the global volume of fruit based beverages consumed increased by
30.2%, with much of the growth from increased consumption in lower social classes in
emerging countries156. This presents an opportunity for the use of fruits and vegetables that
would have otherwise been lost due to a lack of storage for the raw produce, especially for
the more lucrative export market. Most fruit juices have a high acidity as well as natural
antioxidant and antimicrobial properties so can be stored for long periods of time (months)
at room temperature, especially if blended which highly acidic fruits such as lemons or
limes157. Small scale juicing can be done on farm or in larger processing plants.
Sammy Kariuki from Tymax Agribusiness Solutions Limited, Kenya:
A lot of excess produce goes to waste in times of excesses. There is a need to enhance value
addition, for example, processing excess fruits, freezing vegetables such as garden peas and
making powdered milk during peak and glut periods.
However, there is also a need to improve varieties to ensure they can be easily processed. In
addition, since most of the growers are small scale, there will be a requirement to organise
the farmers into farmer groups/production organisations to ensure consistent production
that will motivate investors to build processing factories.”
University of Nottingham 44 March 2015
Modern processing techniques, with an emphasis on safety, stability, quality and energy
efficiency include microwave heating, radio frequency heating, infrared heating, Ohmic
heating, refractance window drying, high pressure processing, pulse electric field treatment,
high intensity pulse light treatment, irradiation, ultrasonication, quality monitoring by near-
infrared spectroscopy and hurdle technology158.
7.6 Information technology
7.6.1 Sensors and trackers
Many temperature tracking systems make the receiver aware that there was an issue in the
past, but they do not necessarily provide real-time communication about issues or the
ability to fix the situation. In-transit temperature monitoring is essential for aggregating
data and analysing to spot trends before they become problems; coupled with a real-time
monitoring system delivers just-in-time corrective actions. This could be aided with
improved and active alarm/communications systems to notify operators when there is a
break in the cold chain. Temperature tracking will also help give operators a better
understanding of temperature abuse during the “in between” steps of the supply chain (e.g.
pallets waiting to be loaded into a container, waiting to go into a warehouse, store, etc.).
Sensors have been used to measure the heat distribution in a container of bananas (which
produce large amounts of heat through respiration) transported from Central America to
Europe. Through data aggregation, the results showed that less than 10% of the available
cooling capacity of the unit actually arrived at the bananas in the centre of a pallet load. The
cooling efficiency could be improved by 50% with better packing and loading schemes165.
Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) tags use a wireless microchip and an antenna so there
is no need for physical contact or sight positioning with the reader. This has obvious benefits
when compared to barcodes as the reading phase will be automated and thus much faster.
RFID smart tags are being developed which have temperature and relative humidity sensing
capabilities. Abad, et al. (2009) validated a RFID smart tag along an intercontinental fresh
fish logistic cold chain159. The data could be read at any time without opening the fish boxes
and provided real-time traceability. This will allow much better safety and quality control
along the entire cold chain. Other RFID tags can sense concentrations of gasses such as
acetaldehyde or ethylene160, shock or vibration161 pH162 or light163. Much of the research,
however, has been over the time period of days or weeks so longer testing times are
required to fully validate these applications164.
A supply chain management solution, first introduced at the end of the 1980s, that is
becoming more widely used, is First-Expired-First-Out (FEFO). By utilising the advances in
sensor technology described above, food that is likely to expire quickly due to poor
temperature control can be used before other produce that may be older but has a longer
University of Nottingham 45 March 2015
expected life. FEFO consequently is able to cut food loss when used instead of the
traditional ‘use-by’ dates165 (Figure 1). Using FEFO shelf life based stock rotations,
strawberry losses were reduced from about 35% to just over 20%, while losses of cooked
ham could be halved165.
A 2012 study showed that by monitoring berries from field to pack house, pallets that had
had a poorer temperature profile and hence had a lower ‘remaining shelf life index’ could
be intelligently routed to a closer distribution centre than those with a high index, which
would help reduce loss166. They found that 30% of the pallets required prioritised routing.
The report also detailed the temperature of the pallets from Mexico to a distribution centre
in California. There was as much as a 30% difference between the temperatures of the
pallets compared to the ambient temperature of the refrigerated container. Further, the
shelf life loss of the pallets within one container varied by up to 40%. By using sensors
(printed tags in this case) to utilise the loss reduction by applying FEFO, the report suggested
that the cost of implementation could be recovered in one growing season.
Rossaint and Kreyenschmidt (2014) found that through the implementation of time-
temperature indicators, levels of poultry waste along the supply chain could be reduced by
35% (from an initial level of 12% waste) 34.
7.6.1.1 Market size
The global food traceability and tracking technologies market is expected to have revenues
of US$ 14.1 billion by 2020, with a growth rate of 8.7%167. Worldwide revenues of RFID
technologies for food and biopharmaceutical cold chains was US$ 361.6 million in 2012 and
expected to grow to US$ 1.22 billion by 2017168 at a rate of 19.4%167. The growth has been
helped by some retailers such as Walmart, since 2003, requiring suppliers to place RFID tags
on perishable pallets and cases169.
7.6.2 Mobile technology
By the end of 2014 there will be over 635 million mobile subscriptions in Sub-Saharan
Africa170. The numbers are expected to rise to around 930 million by the end of 2019,
helped by the rapid increase in low-cost smartphones and tablets. 75% of mobile
subscriptions will be 3G/4G by 2019. The increasing availability of ICT services in Africa and
other developing regions will have a big impact on agriculture. For example, in Nigeria
farmers can now receive electronic vouchers, using an electronic wallet system, to purchase
subsidised seeds and fertilizer or buy farming equipment directly from their mobile
phones170.
There are now a number of mobile apps available in Africa that are empowering farmers to
use the best farming practices and inform them about market prices:
iCow171 is a mobile app subscription service which sends advice to help small scale
farmers enhance productivity throughout their cow’s lifecycle, using text messages
University of Nottingham 46 March 2015
and voice prompts. The app raises awareness of the cow oestrus cycle, advises on
optimal nutrition and provides information and access to vets and AI agents. It will
also help with milk record keeping and explain the best ways of preventing and
curing milk related diseases as well as let farmers know about the most cost effective
milk production practices.
M-Farm172 is a transparency tool for farmers to get information on retail prices of
their products using text messages. Farmers can buy their farm inputs directly from
manufactures at favourable prices and find buyers for their produce.
Mkulima Young173 connects young farmers in a virtual space and enables them to
sell their farm produce online and give advice about successful farming techniques.
Cheetah174 is an app which helps transporters find the quickest routes and also
informs them on the quality of roads or delays as well as any expected costs (bribes)
they may have to pay using a particular route. Simple to use on smartphones, the
app makes use of the very good 3G network that is already in place in much of
Africa. The app has recently won the European Space Agency’s App Challenge and
the company behind Cheetah are now looking to deploy the app in India.
7.7 Better data and forecasting
Better data will drive organisational changes, for example, LeanPath, Oregon, has shown
that by implementing a system where food is weighed before it is thrown out, enabling
companies to monitor in real-time how much and what types of food are being wasted.
They state that their customers have seen their waste levels drops by as much as 80%.
By using an analysis of freshness, shrink and customer satisfaction, Stop and Shop in the US
was able to save US$ 100 million in its perishable department29. The Food Waste Alliance
has produced a “Best Practices and Emerging Solutions Tool Kit” to help guide companies to
reduce food waste.
There are substantial problems in how food wastage statistics are presented as
described by Dr Hubert Reisinger, Umweltbundesamt, Austria:
A core problem with food wastage prevention is the definition of system boundaries for
food loss and waste statistics. Open questions include:
To which degree losses on fields and farms should be taken into account?
To which degree losses of water evaporation during processing, storage and use
should be taken into account?
To which degree water which is added during processing or use should be taken into
account?
To which degree drinks should be taken into account (starting from pure mineral and
tap water to highly processed drinks like brandy)?
To which degree food which is used as feed shall be regarded as wastage or as just
feed?
To which degree food disposed of via the drainage system (such as left-over soups)
University of Nottingham 47 March 2015
should be taken into account?
To which degree garden waste and home-composting should be considered?
How to deal with waste fractions which are not identifiable?
Should the food, where too much is eaten be considered as part of the food waste?
All these questions have enormous implications not only on food and food wastage statistics
but also on food wastage prevention potentials and food wastage prevention strategies.
With improved data, an economic analysis of the value of lost food and accurate modelling,
better forecasting will help reduce food losses. Many retailers have started to implement
automated order practices based on previous sales at the store level. Decentralised buying
(i.e. for individual stores) will help overcome forecasting errors.
Supply chain management software could help to visualise per day demand and decide
optimal quantity and optimum cost for multiple periods when demand is problematic in
nature.
7.8 Large retailer practices
There are a number of retailer practices which if improved could help to reduce food loss
and waste but there needs to be a clear corporate commitment. This can be achieved with
the setting of targets and the implementation of food loss and waste prevention campaigns
in their operations. Table 7 shows the total waste breakdown for Tesco supermarkets.
Better handling and temperature management in the ‘back room’ when product is received
is necessary. When retailers receive deliveries, pallets may often sit out for hours before
they are unloaded175. If retailers are able to change these procedures, it could lead to
improvements. The temperature of refrigerated display cabinets can vary considerably.
Adding doors to the cabinets could help, as well as reduce the energy required to power the
units. More effective stock rotation is also required.
Table 7. Tesco (UK) waste breakdown. Source: Tesco 2013.
Food type
Waste
Bakery
41%
Fruit and vegetables
21%
Convenience foods
8%
Dairy
8%
"Impulse", such as confectionery and soft drinks
6%
Meat, fish and poultry
5%
"Counters", such as cheese and deli meats
2%
Frozen foods
2%
Cereals
2%
Beers and spirits
2%
Pasta, rice and grains
2%
World foods
1%
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7.8.1 Use ugly food
Huge quantities of food are lost as they do not meet strict product requirements (out-
grading). Quality standards should ideally be based on eating quality and nutrition, not on
visual appearance or size. To support such a change, there would need to be a move to
revisit public attitudes towards quality and food aesthetic standards, for example, dispel the
myth that oddly or irregular shaped produce means that something is wrong with it and
help producers envision how to market these foods. A number of retailers have begun to
promote the use of ugly food:
Rewe Group (Germany) has a line of nonconformist produce
Edeka (Germany) sell flawed items as part of their “nobody is perfect” campaign
Tesco (UK) are encouraging consumers to buy ugly food with their Wonky food
initiative.
Intermarche (France) ‘Les fruits et légumes moches’ (ugly fruit and
vegetables). Products are sold at a 30% discount.
7.9 Financing
Access to credit is essential for farmers or market retailers so they can invest in better
machinery, storage or transportation. Agricultural finance in developing countries was
historically delivered through government subsidised directed credit but many of these
attempts to intervene in the financial markets ended in failure as they did not create
sustainable credit supplies176,177. However, agricultural financing began to improve in the
1980s with the introduction of market-based (i.e. able to set their own interest rates) micro-
financing institutions (MFI), which make small, affordable loans to the poor. The creation of
farming associations also helps farmers gain access to microfinance by lowering costs and
spreading the risk. The increasing use of mobile phone banking should help make rural areas
more attractive to financial institutions177.
In many regions, women make up the bulk of the agricultural labour force, but
discrimination often limits their access to credit. A large shift in cultural norms is needed
and in many cases legal barriers must be removed. Many MFIs actively support women, for
example, 96% of the borrowers of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Grameen Bank in
Bangladesh are women.
USAID are currently running a US$ 2 million Asset-Based Financing for Smallholder Farmers
Project which will help 110,000 small holder farmers in 13 counties of Kenya double their
farm income by providing loans for quality seeds and fertilizer178. The project is primarily
focussed on staple crops such as maize, millet, sorghum and kale. Extension training, such as
better storage practices, is also provided to minimise post-harvest losses.
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Further projects like this, focussed on cold storage of perishable food would enable farmers
to have the appropriate facilities to significantly reduce food losses.
7.10 Better regulations
Whilst writing about regulations poses some difficulties due to significant differences
between countries, there are a number of changes to regulations and tax laws which could
greatly help reduce food loss. It is also important to note that it is vital that any changes to
policy or regulations are properly implemented, adhered to and monitored to ensure
compliance. Better communication is also needed between stakeholders along the entire
food supply chain. Some regions have started to implement waste prevention programmes
to reduce waste, such as the European Waste Directive (EU Commission 2008)
Casper Jacobsen from Maersk Container Industry, Denmark:
“Different countries face different obstacles within their regulatory regime. In China, for
example, a very fragmented cold supply chain across the Chinese provinces makes it
inefficient; the solution here is greater consolidation of the cold supply chain industry either
by creating national champions or by relaxing investment restrictions. In Africa, the
challenges are of a very different nature, where underinvestment in infrastructure makes
reefer transport difficult/ impossible.”
7.10.1 On farm
The use of standardised Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) will help improve food safety.
There are initiatives such as KenyaG.A.P. (part of GlobalG.A.P.) which are aiming to improve
farm standards but it must be ensured that the standards are implemented. Many retailers
already require that their farm suppliers adhere to basic hygiene standards.
7.10.2 Taxation
Some types of tax incentives may be beneficial, for example, providing tax reductions for
growers or logistics providers that implement loss reduction strategies, or tax rebates when
purchasing cold storage or transportation.
7.10.3 Levies on capital goods
Ending tax on imports of capital goods would help to boost investment in cold chain
infrastructure.
7.10.4 Packaging levies
In a number of countries, levies are applied which relate to the number of containers rather
than weight. This results in overfilling which inevitably leads to damage. Freight charges by
weight rather than by the number of containers might help reduce container size.
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Incentives are also needed to encourage farmers to use stackable, returnable plastic crates
(RPCs) rather than bags or large baskets and crates.
7.10.5 Food Safety
Improving food safety standards will help enforce better hygiene practices. Many countries
and companies now use Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) approaches
during production and processing. This is where stringent controls, at each step in the
process, are put in place to prevent hazards occurring. HACCP is one of the best methods of
controlling food borne disease or chemical contamination and has been adopted by the
joint FAO/WHO Food Safety Standards Programme.
HACCP a definition
“HACCP is a science based systematic system which identifies specific hazards and measures
for their control to ensure the safety of food. HACCP is a tool to assess hazards and establish
control systems that focus on prevention rather than relying mainly on end-product testing.
Any HACCP system must be capable of accommodating change, such as advances in
scientific knowledge about food safety hazards, equipment design, processing procedures or
technological developments.” standards.org (2014)179
By first identifying possible hazards and then determining critical control points (CCPs) and
critical limits, potential risks in a process can be considerably reduced, ensuring food is safe
and losses are reduced. However, due to the costs associated with HACCP, especially for
small companies, governments need to work at an international level to co-ordinate
activities180.
Whilst it is imperative to have food safety labelling, sometimes these can be too strict and
based on quality rather than safety, for example, ‘display until’ dates. Date labels, and more
importantly consumers misunderstanding them, are one of the major causes of food being
thrown out while it is still perfectly edible. Research by WRAP showed that 45-49% of
consumers misunderstood the meanings of “best before” and “use by”181. Date label
confusion is linked to about 20% of the avoidable waste in the UK. Recent changes to
legislation in the UK which has banned ‘display until’ and ‘sell by’ dates has helped reduce
food waste significantly37.
Improving oversight in the food import sector would help minimise poor handling as well as
ensure quality and safety182.
7.11 Education
To implement all the approaches mentioned above requires a great deal of education and
training along the entire supply chain, from farmers adopting better harvest practices to
retailers understanding the economic burden of food loss and waste. In many areas there
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are weak links between research institutions and the agricultural sector so research on
proper handling methods is not reaching the end user. Basic training in the importance of
cleanliness, hygiene, sorting, handling and the cold chain (and especially pre-cooling) is
required. In many areas, food loss is accepted as a part of business183. Education and
extension programmes are needed, to show that with small changes in harvesting practices,
investment in low cost storage facilities, or through the use of better packaging, food losses
can be dramatically reduced. Training given on production planning including harvest
forecasting will ensure that harvesting is done at the right time. There would also need to be
greater training on the added value of processing and preservation techniques.
Examples of organisations that are running education and training programmes include:
USAID rural extension and advisory services - USAID runs agricultural extension
programmes in many countries, and currently has over 150 projects running
worldwide. The organisation aims to involve diverse public and private sector
providers such as suppliers, buyers, farmer organisations, NGOs and government
organisations. USAID works to transfer new technologies and provide advice to
farmers and rural people and facilitate the development of local skills.
The Postharvest Education Foundation - Formed in 2011, the Postharvest Education
Foundation is a non-profit organisation which provides educational programmes
aimed at reducing food losses, maintaining quality, market value, nutritional value
and food safety. It also provides access to references, resources, training activities
and mentoring services for young professionals in the field of postharvest
technology. The Postharvest Education Foundation runs global e-learning
programmes as well as short courses in developing countries184.
World Food Preservation Centre - The World Food Preservation Centre has recently
been opened which will train students from developing countries to Masters or PhD
level who will then establish independent research, education and extension
programmes in their home countries. This will aid the implementation of advanced
preservation technologies and methodologies specific to their respective countries.
There are currently 10 universities from around the world that form the World Food
Preservation Centre.
7.12 Summary
The factors that influence the occurrence and level of food loss range widely across a
number of areas and vary over time and space.
Of particular note is the distinction between developed and developing country
experience.
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Given our focus on the fruit and vegetable sector, some of these factors are less
relevant in reducing loss than they could be in other sectors such as cereals.
However it is clear that a good infrastructure is central to supporting a more
effective supply chain particularly one that could be enhanced with a more efficient
or indeed new cold chain linking producers to consumers.
The context in which these solutions might be offered means that not all will be
appropriate in all circumstances. The case studies later in this report highlight the
fact that there is no one solution that works in all cases and in all countries.
The factors that could help drive these changes are explored in the next section.
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8. Drivers of change
8.1 The growing middle class
Demographic changes in the developing world will have a big impact on food consumption.
Nearly 90% of the world’s rural population currently live in Africa and Asia. Globally, 54% of
the world’s population live in urban areas; by 2050, this number is expected to grow to 66%
of the world’s population185. The global rural population will decrease from 3.4 billion to 3.2
billion. The largest shift will be seen in Africa and Asia where the number of people living
urban areas will grow from 40% to 56% and from 48% to 64% respectively, by 2050.
The global middle class is forecast to grow from 1.8 billion in 2009 to 4.9 billion by 2030186.
The majority of this growth will be in the Asia Pacific region, and in particular China and
India (Figure 7). By 2050, as much as two-thirds of global consumption could be from
emerging markets, compared with one-third today187. This will be driven by the large
increase in the middle class.
Figure 7. The global middle class in 2009 and 2030. Numbers next to the bars indicate the
total middle class population (millions). Source: Kharas (2010)186.
010 20 30 40 50 60 70
North America
Europe
Central and South America
Asia Pacific
Sub-Saharan Africa
Middle East and North Africa
Share of global middle class (%)
2009
2030
338
322
664
234
105
107
32
3228
525
313
181
680
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Urbanisation and the burgeoning middle class in emerging markets are likely to have a large
impact on food supply chains. There will be an increased demand for perishable food110,
especially meat, with a much greater emphasis on quality188. There will also be a shift in
shopping habits with the growth of supermarkets and home refrigeration (there are now
over about 1.4 billion domestic refrigerators and freezers worldwide189). Rather than
shopping daily at local markets or convenience stores, the middle class are likely to shop
less frequently, requiring food to have a longer shelf life. There will also be huge growth in
e-commerce where consumers have food delivered directly to their homes. Unbroken cold
chains must therefore be developed to meet this demand.
The growth of supermarkets will have a big impact on smallholder farmers in developing
countries. As commercial demand increases, farmers can earn greater income by
specialising in crops that they have a competitive advantage in. With greater income they
are able to improve productivity by investing in better machinery, better crop varieties or
new postharvest storage and processing facilities.
In Latin America supermarkets have grown from having just 10-20% of the food retail sector
in 1990 to being one of the dominant players with 50-60% of the market share in 2000190.
This has led to a massive increase in the need for a reliable and effective cold chain.
Rao, et al. (2012) found that in Kenya, participation in supermarket channels had a positive
impact on farm productivity191. With higher prices and better market assurances farmers
had an increased ability and willingness to upgrade their technology. Farmers increased
their scale efficiency by 30%, which was attributed mainly to reduced marketing risks and
the ability to specialise.
8.2 Summary
The rising middle class in many rapidly growing countries will see an increase in demand
for perishable foods and lead to greater incentives to ensure food loss is minimised.
Changing diets associated with greater wealth will have implications for the supply
chains in those countries, not least of which will be in the retail sector as shopping habits
evolve.
As countries reach maturity it is possible to imagine the focus of attention shifting from
food loss to food waste if current patterns remain the same. At present developed
economies tend to see food waste as the more pressing issue and the next section
explores how this might be reduced.
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9. What are the possible approaches to food waste
utilisation?
Figure 8. Food waste hierarchy
The food waste hierarchy (Figure 8) ranks the most important uses of food waste. If at all
possible, generating waste should be prevented, for example by having better supply chains
and order management, as described in the previous sections. The following sections will
describe the best approaches to food waste utilisation.
9.1 Food donation
Food that has passed its sell by date so cannot be sold by retailers is often still fit for human
consumption. Charity food banks, such as Feeding America (US) or Fare Share (UK), usually
collect food from growers that have a surplus, manufacturers that have over produced or
retailers that have over ordered. Similarly, second chance food stores in disadvantaged
neighbourhoods are being set up which sell food that is past its shelf date, but still within
the window of being edible. However, better integration with the for profit supply chain is
needed to minimize the cost of hunger relief food recovery.
Feeding America currently receives about 600 million pounds of produce ‘loss’ from
growers, packers and shippers which is primarily due to overproduction or food produce not
meeting specifications192. They receive a further 1,200 million pounds of perishable food
waste, mainly due to unpredictability of demand or handling damage, from consumer facing
Avoid generating waste
Donate surplus food
Animal feed
Industrial use
Anaerobic digestion
Composting
Landfill or
incineration
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retail outlets. The cost of perishable food recovery for the Feeding America network varies
from $0/lb to $0.25/lb. The network spends more than US$ 800 million to move the
estimated 4 billion pounds of food annually. They estimate that to close the entire domestic
meal gap by scaling the existing hunger relief model, about US$ 1.5 billion would be needed
annually. To achieve this, better collaboration with the for-profit sector is also needed.
Daniel Krohm from Feeding America:
To address hunger in the U.S. based on current levels of food insecurity there is an annual
need of about 8.5 billion meals (1 meal = 1.2lbs) to feed 49 million people. (Note: food
insecure individuals do not typically source all of their meals through hunger relief channels.)
The Feeding America network provides about 3.5 billion meals annually. With more than 70
billion pounds of potentially recoverable food waste generated in the U.S. for profit supply
chain, the total need of the food insecure in the U.S. could be addressed via food waste
recovery.
While food waste is often thought to primarily be a problem in the developed world, there
are huge amounts of food wasted during festivals and wedding ceremonies in developing
countries, for example, in Kashmir, only a fraction of the ‘Wazwan’ dishes which are served
at weddings are eaten, although people can spend up to 25% of their life savings on the
food. Food donation schemes are now being set up in many areas which aim to give the
surplus food to people from the surrounding areas. An event in Annakshetra, Jaipur, India,
was able to provide food to 10,000 people with surplus food from weddings the previous
day (Figure 9).
Regulations such as the EU Hygiene Package (Regulation (EC) No 852/2004) can make
donation far more difficult, where retailers or manufacturers do not want to risk donating
unsafe food. Countries such as the US and Italy have tackled the legal indemnity problem
with the Federal Good Samaritan Food Donation Act which relieves liability concerns over
donation. Food donation is also often seen as being too expensive, especially when
subsidies are provided to support anaerobic digestion rather than donation. A number of
European countries have now implemented tax incentives which should help to redress this
imbalance. California and several other states in the US have recently passed legislation to
provide tax credits to farmers who donate their surplus food54.
Mark Varney from FareShare:
“A legislative environment that provides subsidy and support to anaerobic digestion and
other energy technologies creates a ‘race to the bottom’ of the food use pyramid.”
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Figure 9. Muhana Mandi, Jaipur on the 4th November 2014. Source: Ravi Dhingra, CDC
India.
9.2 Animal Feed
Historically, food waste was commonly used as animal feed. In the developing world much
of the food waste is still used as animal feed, however, following the BSE (bovine
spongiform encephalopathy) outbreak in the 1980s, in the UK and much of Europe, the
feeding of processed animal protein (PAP) to most farm animals has been prohibited.
Subsequently, the foot-and-mouth outbreak led to the UK prohibiting the feeding of animals
of catering waste that had been in contact with animal products. Some of these restrictions
are in the process of being relaxed, but stringent safety and processing regulations must be
put in place. One third of all cereals produced worldwide are used for animal feed rather
than directly for human consumption (FAO, 2013) so any food waste that could be used to
reduce this number will be a huge benefit. Food waste is now also being used to grow fly
larvae for aquaculture feed.
9.3 Industrial uses
With the increasing costs and environmental concerns of fossil fuels, new sources for the
production of chemicals and materials are needed. Food waste provides an alternative
feedstock, although there are many difficulties associated with it due to the large
differences in composition (lipids, carbohydrates, proteins) as well as problems with
collection, fluctuations in volumes and contamination (bacterial or chemical)193. A further
barrier includes strict regulations which may add to costs.
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Bio-refineries process the raw materials which are then converted into valuable chemicals.
Economically, refining food waste is an attractive option, for example, bulk chemicals and
transportation fuels have been estimated to generate $1000 and $200-400 per tonne of
biomass respectively while cattle feed is in the range of $70-200 and electricity (from AD)
just $60-150 per tonne of biomass194.
There are some forms of food waste which contain valuable compounds such as
antioxidants which could potentially be recovered and re-used in the food chain as
functional foods193. Some types of food waste, for example, wine grape skins can be dried
and used to produce edible flour or vitamin rich food powders.
9.4 Anaerobic digestion/renewable energy
Anaerobic digesters (AD) convert food waste into biogas (60% methane, 40% carbon dioxide
and traces of other gases such as hydrogen sulphide) using naturally occurring micro-
organisms. The biogas can be used to produce electricity and heat, while the digestate (the
indigestible material) can be used as fertiliser. The biogas can also be purified into pure
methane which can be used as road fuel or added to the mains gas grid. AD plants can come
in a variety of sizes from those used by local authorities or industry to much smaller farm
scale units.
However, there are regulations that must be adhered to in many countries when using AD.
Meat and other products of animal origin must go through a process of hygienisation to
ensure that there is sufficient pathogen removal so that the treated digestate can be used
as fertiliser.
9.5 Composting
Composting food rather than disposing of it in landfill has multiple benefits such as reducing
the amount of methane produced in landfills and producing cost effective natural fertiliser.
9.6 Landfill and incineration
Landfill or incineration should only be used if all the other options in the food waste
hierarchy cannot be achieved. Many governments have started to impose fines on
companies that send food waste to landfill, for example the Landfill Directive in Europe.
Approximately 33 million tonnes of food waste is currently sent to landfill or incinerated in
the US 195, at a cost of nearly US$ 750 million a year196,197.
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9.7 Summary
Food waste is generally a more pressing matter for developed economies than
developing economies.
Much of the waste arises from consumer behaviour that reflects the relative value of
food to other goods and services.
However, there are many practices in the food chain that might contribute to waste
including promotional activity centring on volume discounts.
There are many potential uses of food that otherwise would be wasted with a
hierarchy of value being a good indicator of where best to make intervention.
Activities such as food donation though, are affected by regulations and government
policies and thus while on the face of it appear simple solutions to reducing waste
they are in fact more nuanced than that.
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10. Future challenges in understanding food loss
There are a number of areas which have been identified while undertaking this research
that show where more information is needed to get a better understanding of the problems
and indeed where lessons can be learned from other sectors.
10.1 Limitations of data
Significant limitations to research arise from a lack of data in a number for key areas. These
include:
10.1.1 The amount of food loss throughout the entire supply chain
The US Department of State (Office of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Textile Trade Affairs
Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs) has recently published a discussion paper looking
at the postharvest challenges in developing countries198. The paper highlights the severe
lack of postharvest data in many regions16,21. National surveys and studies are needed so
that there can be a better understanding of where food losses are occurring along the entire
supply chain so that suitable interventions can be identified. Change will happen when
governments or the private sector understand the huge levels of loss and waste that are
occurring at each stage of the food supply chain, but much more data is needed to achieve
this.
Case studies on different commodities, such as those already done on bananas in India199 or
mangoes from the Ivory coast200, have the potential to create strong business cases and
highlight where investment could have the greatest impact. Champion stories of successful
companies that have made significant gains in reducing food loss, how they achieved their
results and the beneficial outcomes financial and otherwise, will help demonstrate the
potential gains that can be made and inspire others.
10.1.2 Nutrient content of food loss
Whilst it is useful to know the monetary or energy (kcal) value that is lost, it is also
important to consider food loss in terms of micronutrients. Many types of perishable foods
have a relatively low energy content or monetary value, but they are important nonetheless
due to their micronutrient content. While there is some progress being made with
genetically modified cereals, for example, golden rice which contains vitamin A, it is vital
that people eat a varied diet. It is important therefore, that we understand how much food
loss impacts hidden hunger.
10.1.3 Geographic Information System (GIS)/remote sensing
GIS enables many different types of data sets to be combined to get a better understanding
of a particular geographical area. There are a number of GIS solutions which are already
helping estimate food loss levels or provide a mapping system to reduce loss:
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The African Postharvest Losses Information System (APLIS) helps estimate levels of
postharvest cereal loss. A network of experts supply data into a shared database and
using an algorithm, the postharvest loss calculator generates estimates of weight
losses of cereals in Sub-Saharan Africa by country and province which can be viewed
as maps or tables.
GIS could also be used as a tool for private investors to know which regions have the
necessary infrastructure (e.g. tarmac roads, water, electricity) for implementing a cold
chain. By knowing where there is loss and why that loss is happening (e.g. lack of cold
storage facilities or poor roads), as well as what infrastructure is already in place, specific
solutions could be targeted which should help reduce food loss.
10.1.4 Impact on rural income
Reducing food loss will result in greater food availability. It is important to know what
impact this will have on rural incomes. It may result in cheaper food so there is less
malnutrition, but how will lower prices affect farmers? Lower prices received for food could
lead to less desire to invest in better cold chain and other technologies as returns fall.
10.1.5 Education
It would be useful to have a better understanding of the effectiveness of education and
agricultural extension, especially using new technologies such as mobile and web based
services, provided by governments, NGOs or the private sector so that the most effective
training systems can be promoted.
10.1.6 Harvest
Harvesting crops within a defined window of maturity is essential; harvesting before or after
that window will likely result in higher levels of food loss. Whilst information on the best
time to harvest certain crops is available, the information is by no means complete. It is
important that we know the levels of loss associated with incorrect harvest timing so that
farmers can be aware of its importance.
10.1.7 Cold chain
More data is needed on the number of cold chain facilities (pre-cooling, storage and
transportation), as well as if they are being used correctly and are in good working order.
The costs associated with cooling facilities must also be known.
There need to be more studies which will help demonstrate to farmers and market retailers
the potential benefit of utilising a cold chain and that loss does not have to be a standard
part of their business.
A better understanding of temperature abuse during the “in between” steps of the supply
chain would also help reduce breaks in the cold chain.
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10.1.8 Transportation
There needs to be more data on the time taken to transport perishable foods and the loss of
product value from farm to market (and prices at the different stages).
There would be value in having data on when transit times arepushed’ for economic
reasons. Often longer trips are pursued to capture beneficial markets; however, it may be
beyond the food’s ability to last with resulting loss175.
10.1.9 Out-grading
Whilst out-grading is a serious problem, there is little data on the amount of food that is left
in the field, sent to AD or diverted to other food supply chains (e.g. jams or jellies). More
data is needed to understand the real impact of out-grading.
10.1.10 Retail
Many retailers lack reliable data on food wastage, much of which is based on assumptions
or estimates rather than real data. Only by understanding their wastage levels will they be
able to make a big impact in reducing loss and waste. This may be helped with the
development of standard methodologies.
10.1.11 What happens to food waste?
There is very little data on what happens to food waste. How much food that is still fit for
human consumption is sent instead to be used for animal feed or anaerobic digestion? Are
these levels due to costs associated with food donation or difficulties presented by
unhelpful regulations?
10.2 Other sectors similar to the food cold chain
Biopharmaceutical products such as vaccines and blood as well as most fresh cut flowers
should also be transported via cold chains. They often face high levels of loss due to similar
problems associated with the food cold chain. However, there are often cold chains already
in place for biopharmaceuticals or fresh cut flowers in developing countries due to their
higher economic value while there are few cold chain facilities available for perishable food.
Expertise and infrastructure that is already in place could therefore give a boost to the
nascent food cold chain in these countries if capabilities were shared among sectors.
The cold chain biopharma industry is valued at more than US$ 200 billion and is likely to
grow to US$ 300 billion by 2018, with the largest growth in Asia. Biopharma cold chain
logistics spending is about US$ 8.4 billion worldwide, consisting of US$ 5.6 billion for cold
chain transport and US$ 2.8 billion for cold chain packaging, in a US$ 64 billion overall
biopharma logistics market201. By 2018, seven out of the top ten pharma products are
predicted to be biopharmaceuticals that require refrigeration at 2-8oC. Sales of insulin,
University of Nottingham 63 March 2015
which also needs refrigeration, are expected to grow by as much as 20% in emerging
markets.
Fresh cut flowers are sensitive to many of the same factors as perishable foods, such as
temperature, humidity and ethylene. Europe is the largest producer of fresh cut flowers,
with the Netherlands traditionally the centre of the global flower industry. Aalsmeer in the
Netherlands is still the largest flower market in the world but the industry is becoming more
fragmented as retailers have started buying directly from growers. Less developed
countries, such as Kenya, Columbia and Ecuador, which have better suited climates and
lower labour costs are now major producers. Exports of fresh cut flowers in Africa grew at
an annual rate of 20% between 2000 and 2007, doubling its share of world exports from 4%
to 8%202.
10.3 Summary
Food loss is a highly complex problem with a range of inter-related solutions
available.
Finding an appropriate solution has to start by gathering sound and comprehensive
evidence.
It is clear that data at present are limited in a number of key areas and more
research is needed to generate better and more extensive research.
Some solutions could be drawn from other sectors, not least of which is the
biopharmaceutical and fresh flower sector which currently utilises cold chain
technology to ensure effective operation of a global business.
Local contexts will be important in shaping the appropriate response to reducing
food loss as the next section highlights.
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Case studies
11. China an introduction
China has the largest population in the world at 1.4 billion people and 46% of China’s
population still lives in rural areas. China is the largest producer of rice, vegetables and hen
eggs, second largest producer of chicken (after the US) and third largest producer of beef
(after the US and Brazil). However, 10.6% or 150.8 million people are undernourished,
placing it second in the world after India3,11,203. Largely due to a poorly developed cold chain,
there are high levels of food loss77 (Table 8).
Table 8. Post-harvest losses of different foods in China, adapted from Wang et al. (2013)77
and Jiang (2013)79
Loss (%)
Transported via
cold chains (%)
Fruit and vegetables
20-30
5
Meat
12
15
Aquatic products
15
23
The cost of the 12 million tonnes of fruits and 130 million tonnes of vegetables that are
damaged every year due to an underdeveloped cold chain, approximates to a cost of over
RMB 100 billion a year204. A further report on food losses in China states that 10-15% of
perishable food is lost78. The author notes that the data available along the whole food
value chain is deficient and rarely complete. The author also emphasises the decentralised
agricultural system as a major cause of post-harvest loss.
Along with problems in infrastructure, there are also problems with education and culture.
For instance there are reports of truck drivers turning off the refrigeration units during
transportation to save costs and only turn them on when they arrive at their destinations205.
11.1 Food safety
Food safety is a particular concern in China after a number of damaging incidents. Examples
include the tainted baby milk scandal where dangerous levels of melamine (a chemical
which makes milk appear to have a higher protein level) were found206; the reports of
illegally recycled cooking oil207; or the recent ‘out-of-date’ meat scandal208.
All these incidents have severely affected consumer confidence. Further to this, a study
published in the Chinese Journal of Food Hygiene suggested that as many as 94 million
people became ill due to bacterial food borne disease in 2011209.
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Figure 10. Wholesale market in Beijing. Source: Author’s photo.
Developing a cold chain should to some degree help reduce the number of foodborne
diseases as well as improve consumer confidence. However in 2008, Zhang 210 estimated
that US$ 100 billion in supply chain investment was needed to fix China’s food safety
problems with the number of refrigerated trucks rising from 30,000 to over 365,000 over
the next decade. In 2013 there were approximately 10,000 cold storage units in China while
the total cold storage capacity in 2011 was 71 million cubic metres, with a storage capacity
of 17.4 million tonnes77. The number of storage units constructed between 2008 and 2012
has doubled each year77.
11.2 Opportunity
Despite the fact that China is the world’s largest investor in infrastructure (investing 8.5% of
the country’s GDP in roads, power, rail etc. between 1992-2011) it will continue to invest
aggressively as its level of infrastructure is still below that of developed countries211. This
should help the cold chain sector develop at a very fast rate. A recent report suggests that
the cold chain logistics sector in China will grow at a rate of 25% per year until 2017 and will
be worth more than RMB 470 billion212,213.
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The Chinese middle class in 2010 had 157 million people, second only to the United States,
although this is still a small percentage of the total population (12%)186. As many as 1 billion
people or 70% of the population could be middle class by 2030214. Chinese consumers spend
up to 9.8 hours per week shopping compared to just 3.6 hours for Americans215 and the
middle class are forecast to spend more than US$ 650 billion on food by 2017 from US$ 150
billion in 2007216.
This will include a shift towards perishable foods such as meat, fruits and vegetables,
processed and ready-to-eat foods. For example, the per capita spending on fresh fruits and
vegetables increased by 83.7% and 82.5% respectively over the last 5 years79. Concurrent
with this, the drive for home refrigeration has also increased substantially. Between 1995
and 2007, the number of urban households that had a refrigerator jumped from just 7% to
over 95%.
Whilst business to business (B2B) transport has the largest share of the cold chain logistics
market, the business to consumer (B2C) market segment, which was worth RMB 400 million
in 2012, is estimated to grow at a rate of 80-120% per year, fuelled by the rise of e-
commerce where consumers want fresh produce delivered to their door212. Sales of fresh
produce from Taobao, an e-commerce platform, grew by 195% in 2013. International firms
are also entering the market with Amazon investing US$ 20 million in the Shanghai-based
fresh food e-store Yummy77 and Walmart increasing its funding in Yihadodian, in which it
has had a majority stake since 2012 and had sales of US$ 1.9 billion last year.
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12. India an introduction
By population, India is the world’s second largest country with 1.25 billion people, but it is
expected to overtake China by 2028 according to the UN. It is one of the largest food
producers in the world yet struggles to feed its population with 190.7 million people or
15.2% of the population undernourished while one in every three of the malnourished
children in the world lives in India3,5,203,217.
The country is the world largest milk producer with 16% of global production yet losses are
responsible for 50% of the cost of milk218. It is also ranked third for hen egg production,
third for fish production and sixth for chicken meat production219. It is the second largest
producer of fruits and vegetables in the world after China. But due to losses of up to 20-50%
of total production82 it accounts for just 1.5% of the world’s exports144.
While many factors contribute to these post-harvest losses, a major cause is an almost non-
existent cold chain144. Maheshwar and Chanakwa 82 have suggested that 30-35% of fruit and
vegetable losses could be reduced by transporting fresh produce in refrigerated containers.
12.1 Limited cold chain
India has around 6000 cold storage units which are only able to store about 11% of the
country’s total perishable produce. While 75% of the storage (most of which were
developed in the 1960s) is used for potatoes and only 23% is available for multi-purpose
storage, potatoes contribute just 20% of the total cold chain storage revenue, compared to
54% from multi-purpose storage220.
The lack of a cold chain is particularly acute in the south of the country where there are
almost no cold storage units and the climate is hotter and far more humid. A knock on effect
of limited storage is price spikes, where fruit and vegetable prices fall to as little as a few
rupees at harvest time but increase hugely during the off-season221.
In addition, there are approximately 104 million tonnes of perishable food transported
between cities throughout India every year, but only 4 million tonnes are transported in
refrigerated vehicles, the majority of which are used for milk products220. While there are
more than 3,500 companies that operate within the nascent cold supply chain, the industry
is highly fragmented and organised players make up only 10% of the industry.
12.2 Barriers to implementation
A major barrier to cold chain implementation in India is cost. The operating costs for Indian
cold chain storage units are double those of the West (US$ 60 per cubic metre compared to
less than US$ 30 in the West82). Similarly, energy expenses account for 28% of the total
expenses in India but just 10% in the West. Further, most Indian farms are very small (a few
acres) and nearly 70% of all rural villages lack access to a reliable electricity supply129. Cold
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storage hubs will need to be built around the country but there must first be adequate
infrastructure such as roads and power stations.
India is aiming to hugely increase its power generating capacity, as it currently has a peak
power deficit of at least 16%222, but much of this will be from coal. Outside air pollution in
India is estimated to cause 620,000 premature deaths per year129 and the carbon dioxide
emissions from transport in 2010 were 185MtCO2 but are projected to grow 10-fold by
2050223. Consequently, it is vital that sustainable and efficient cold chain systems are
implemented.
12.3 Opportunities
A report by McKinsey has suggested that India’s middle class will grow from 50 million in
2007 to 583 million by 2025224. Other authors have suggested that with a population of 1.6
billion forecast for 2039, India could have as many as 1 billion people within the middle
class186. The increase of the middle class will therefore drive consumption of perishable
foods requiring refrigeration.
In 2012, India formed the National Centre for Cold-chain Development (NCCD). The
government has recently relaxed regulations so that it is now possible for 100% foreign
direct investment (FDI) in cold chain infrastructure, as well as boosting the opportunities for
new ventures with private and government partnerships. The government is also forecast to
invest up to US$ 15 billion in the cold chain over the next 5 years129. A recent report has
estimated that the cold chain will grow from a value of US$ 4.7 billion in 2013 to
approximately US$ 11.6 billion by 2017 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of
28.3%225.
The grocery retail market was worth US$ 500 billion in 2012 and is expected to grow to US$
847.9 billion by 2020226. India is forecast to have the second largest grocery market by 2028.
Currently, traditional outlets account for 80% of sales while organised retail is valued at US$
35 billion in 2012 and expected to grow at CAGR of more than 20%. There are now over 300
hypermarkets trading across the country. Grocery e-commerce is negligible and still in the
early stages (only 19% of the population uses the internet), although sales are likely to
double by 2016227. The top five grocery retailers are domestic but with the recent
government reforms allowing 51% FDI in multi-brand retailing, Tesco has announced it will
invest US$ 140 million to take a 50% share in Tata-owned Trent Hypermarket Ltd.
12.4 Bananas a case study
A recent report into the banana industry in India highlights the potential gains for export if a
cold chain and export model are initiated199. India currently produces 28% of the world’s
bananas yet represents just 0.3% of all internationally traded bananas. The report suggests
that the number of containers of bananas that could be exported has the potential to grow
from 3,000 currently to as many as 190,000 if the cold chain infrastructure was sufficiently