Recently, Taiwan’s “food paradise” reputation has been severely damaged by a series of food scandals related to the illegal use of chemical substances.
While the cloud over food safety has become a terrible nightmare for Taiwanese, one piece of news did not draw much attention. This is a shame, because it recognizes Taiwan’s outstanding leadership in the global issue of reducing food waste.
Taiwan’s APEC initiative of “Strengthening Public-Private Partnership to Reduce Food Losses in the Supply Chain,” was approved by the APEC Budget and Management Committee early this month, with APEC contributing about US$498,000 for project implementation over five years.
How to reduce food losses and waste has become an increasingly pressing issue in recent years, demonstrated by the 2007-2008 global food crisis.
The reasons can be attributed to the following factors: rising pressure of population growth, imbalance of food demand and supply, and the impacts of climate change and extreme weather on food production.
A chilling and undeniable reality is that despite the development of advanced technology in agriculture, the capabilities to boost food production alone can no longer constitute the only and sustainable answer for ensuring food security in the long run.
As a result, reducing food losses and waste has gradually emerged as one of the practical solutions to enhancing food security.
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the world’s population is expected to grow by nearly 30 percent to 9.1 billion people by 2050, which will require a 70 percent increase in food production and a 50 percent rise in investment in agriculture to feed an additional 2 billion people.
While booming population growth is a massive burden on the environment, energy supplies, water resources and food supplies, the amount of unnecessary food losses and waste has rapidly escalated, becoming an issue that cannot be ignored.
UN research shows that about one-third of the edible parts of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. This results in about 1.3 billion tonnes of food per year and is equivalent to the total amount of food produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.
With regard to fruit and vegetables, post-harvest food losses can reach 50 percent or more. According to the research conducted by the UN’s Industrial Development Organization in Asia alone, post-harvest losses are estimated at 30 percent of global food production annually, valued at US$5 billion.
Despite slightly different definitions among academics, food “losses” refer to the unintended result that food spills, spoils or incurs an unusual reduction in quality, or food simply gets lost through the length of the supply chain before it reaches the consumer.
Food “waste,” on the other hand, represents food in good quality and suitable for human consumption that is not consumed or is discarded, which usually occurs at the end of the food supply chain.
While the former is likely due to backward agricultural technologies and skills and poor infrastructure, the latter tends to be the result of negligence or a deliberate decision to throw food away.
In response to the devastating impacts and consequential outcomes of excessive food losses and waste, several international organizations have called for immediate action on this matter.