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UNECE taking on the food loss and waste challenge

Food loss and waste occurs throughout the entire supply chain, from production to consumer, at almost every node of the chain. The gigantic amount of 1.6 billion tonnes of food worth USD 1.2 trillion is lost every year, according to FAO. The Boston Consulting Group, in its 2018 report, presented this as a more tangible image: the amount lost is “ten times the mass of the island of Manhattan.” This quantity is not static; the report also forecasts a huge hike by 2030 when up to 2.1 billion tonnes, worth 1.5 trillion USD, will be wasted, if we do not take immediate action and tackle the inefficiencies of today’s food production, trade and consumption system.

Losing food along the supply chain and creating immense amounts of waste not only means being unable to feed many hungry people or losing money and income. It also means maintaining a food production and distribution system where natural resources are used for food that is never eaten while producing 8 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Mr. Liu Zhenmin, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, underscored the importance of promoting “synergies between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate change to advance win-win solutions.” Further elaborating, he said sustainable food production under SDG 2 (zero hunger) and changing patterns of consumption and production under SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) can help to lower emissions in support of SDG 13 (climate action) while also creating new jobs in line with SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and alleviating poverty under SDG 1 (no poverty).

Can we really afford to neglect the wide-reaching implications of billions of tons of food lost and wasted? To address such a large topic, for over 5 years, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has worked with its expert groups on the varied aspects of food loss and waste to analyse the root problems and identify potential solutions. It has engaged with different actors in the supply chains including government agencies, traders, supermarket chains, non-governmental organizations, activists and international organizations and United Nations agencies.

UNECE has intensified its efforts in developing practical and impactful solutions to the food loss challenge. One of the key areas identified by the experts was lack of updated information and resources available to fight food loss and waste. In this light, UNECE has developed a comprehensive resource page on the food loss and waste challenge. The page includes updates on UNECE’s new innovative market application to help trace and distribute the currently unavailable food in alternative food chains; the development of a Code of Good Practice on handling fruit and vegetables along the supply chain to prevent and avoid loss and waste in the trading process;  presentations from previous conferences and links to external resources. The page will be regularly updated to inform interested parties about the ongoing developments in the food loss and waste front.

To learn more about UNECE’s work on food loss and waste, or to contribute to the effort, visit http://www.unece.org/trade/agr/unece-foodlosschallenge.html