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Food Waste Index Report 2021

Food Waste Index Report 2021

Why in news?

  • Recently, the UNEP’s Food Waste Index Report 2021 highlights the magnitude of wastage. Although the government has taken robust steps towards wastage prevention.
  • Food wastage has been a problem for decades, and is worsening with time.  It has now acquired environmental dimension where by excess food waste usually ends up in landfills, creating potent greenhouse gases which have dire environmental implications.

Findings Of The Report

  • Approximately, 17% (931 million tonnes) of total global food production was wasted in 2019.
  • Among them, 61% of the global waste came from households, 26% from food service and 13% from retail.
  • Household per capita food waste generation is broadly similar across country income groups.
  • In 2019 alone hunger impacted some 690 million people. Another three billion were unable to afford a healthy diet.

About Food Waste Index

  • The Food Waste Index is released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partner organisation WRAP.
  • It measures tons of wasted food per capita, considering a mixed stream of products from processing through to consumption.
  • It was prepared by using data from 54 countries and then extrapolated to the remaining countries.
  • Contrary to belief, the study by the UNEP revealed that food waste was a global problem and not that of just the developed world.                        Food Waste Index Report 2021

Food Wastage During Pandemic

  • Farmers access to market affected during lockdown causing wastage: Although essential commodities were exempt from movement restrictions, farmers across the country struggled to access markets, resulting in tonnes of food waste. Meanwhile, instinctive hoarding by the middle class disrupted the value chain, further aggravating the situation.
  • Rotting in godowns: In the wake of the lockdown imposed last year, surplus stocks of grain — pegged at 65 lakh tonnes in the first four months of 2020 — continued to rot in godowns across India

Effect Of Food Wastage

  • Greenhouse Gases Emission: This excess food waste usually ends up in landfills, creating potent greenhouse gases which have dire environmental implications.
  • Prevalence of Hunger: If more food is wasted, then the remaining food is available at higher prices. This excludes many people from accessing quality food owing to poor socio-economic conditions. In the 2020 Global Hunger Index, India ranks 94th out of the 107 countries.
  • Wastage of resources: If the food is wasted, then the cost of factors of production such as land, water, energy, and inputs used to produce food goes in vain.                Food Waste Index Report 2021
  • Economic Impact: Food loss and waste cause about $940 billion per year in economic losses to the world. So, India wasting 40% of food can save the economic cost associated with food.

Government Initiatives To Reduce Food Wastage In India

  • SAMPADA (Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters) scheme was launched in 2016. One of the core components of the scheme involves developing an integrated cold chain and value addition infrastructure.
  • Similarly, Mega Food Parks also getting developed in India. They will provide adequate and appropriate storage facilities as well as process food. This will improve food preservation and elongate its shelf-life.
  • Linking of the Aadhaar card with the Ration card ensured better identification of beneficiaries under the Public distribution system. This reduced the demand for excess food.
  • The National Food Security Act, 2013 places an obligation on the government to deliver quality food at affordable prices to the poor. This places an indirect obligation on the government to reduce food wastage in order to achieve the mission’s objectives.

Possible solutions

  • We must attempt to change our “food abundance” mindset to a “food scarcity” one, working our way towards a zero-waste end goal.            Food Waste Index Report 2021
  • Edible food should be made available every day, for free, at the latest in the last opening hour, so it can be picked up and consumed by those in need. The option of distribution through food banks can also be explored, as can tie-ups with private actors so that food can reach hunger hotspots.
  • Minimising single-use packaging wherever possible
  • Ordering consciously from restaurants
  • Multilateral platforms like the UN Food Systems Summit can be used to improve cooperation and collaboration among countries.
  • Reconsidering extravagant buffet spreads at weddings
  • India can utilise the knowledge and practice of UNEP’s Regional Food Waste Working Groups. Especially to share and learn good practices with peer countries.
  • Planning in the supply chain can improve with technology, reducing transit time in shipping and logistics. In addition, multiple government initiatives are also assisting in building infrastructure for the food industry.


  • Early awareness about our duty to minimize food waste is critical in changing the way our society addresses hunger and food scarcity.
  • India needs a more proactive approach towards Food wastage that should involve a blend of incentives, penalties and behaviour changing measures.
  • This will ensure judicious food utilisation and would also help in achieving SDG 12.3 that aims to halve global food waste by 2030.                                        Food Waste Index Report 2021
  • Thus everyone must join hands if we are to work towards a truly sustainable India that does not have millions undernourished despite having adequate food production.



Mussoorie Times

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