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UNECE supports action on food loss and waste with new measurement methodology and code of ‎good practice for handling fresh produce ‎

Published: 28 November 2019

Sustainable Development Goal Target 12.3 is to halve by 2030 per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses. The need for action is urgent - consider for instance that on average 14% of all the food produced globally is lost from post-production up to the retail stages of the supply chain, according to the latest FAO figures. Furthermore, if global food production were considered a country itself, it would be the third largest CO2 emitter!

Reducing food loss and waste requires a systematic approach and targeted solutions for supply chains. Essential first steps are improving the measurement of the food loss and waste, and ensuring better handling of the products at each stage of the supply chain. Although the measurement of food loss, its hotspots and its economic impacts are gaining increasing attention, benchmarking of data and systematic recording have up to now remained a key hurdle. Research from the Champions 12.3 coalition shows that ‘for every one US Dollar invested by companies in measuring waste, training staff, improving storage and changing packaging, USD 14 is generated’.

Responding to this potential, UNECE has produced two practical resources to support action: a code of good practice for handling fresh produce to minimize loss, and a simple methodology to measure lost produce.

The code of good practice provides practical guidelines on how to maintain quality and reduce food loss for three key groups along the fresh produce supply chain: producers, traders and retailers. The code includes a range of issues including staff training, production planning, storage, logistics, alternative marketing and other relevant topics.

The methodology offers a food loss and waste quantification method, food loss and waste hotspot analysis method and an analysis method for financial losses. The simple formulas are applicable at production, post-harvest, wholesale, transportation and packing stages of the fresh- produce supply chain and can be used by the farmers, wholesalers, transporter or packing houses as needed. The quantification method shows the quantity of loss at various nodes of the supply chain. For example, the difference between the quantity harvested (in kilograms) and the quantity transported to the wholesale.

The hotspot analysis method shows the throughput efficiency at various stages of the supply chain, for example, the ratio of transported harvest to the actual harvest. The financial analysis takes into consideration the financial value of lost or wasted food as well as the cost of its transportation as applicable at various nodes.  A food loss and waste record sheet has also been added for the daily use at each stage of the chain.

Collecting and using the information from these measurements will generate big data and help guide policy makers to integrate food loss and waste into thematic strategies such as national agricultural development policies. The systematic measurement and quantification of the loss or waste will help both the public and private sectors to find viable and sustainable solutions.

The methodology and code of good practice are available for free for use by any stakeholders in any country. They can be adapted to specific contexts in the perishable-produce supply chains.

While a stand-alone tool, the methodology can also be integrated into an IT-based smart food loss management system. UNECE is currently developing a unique blockchain-based online market for food that today is lost or otherwise wasted in supply chains. This aims to allow the currently “invisible” food to remain in the human consumption chain to the largest extent possible. It is expected to be launched by mid-2020.

A multifaceted challenge

Food Loss and Waste is a topic with wide-reaching social, environmental and economic impacts. Therefore, the policy approaches must be multifaceted and holistic.

This was the main conclusion from the UNECE-FAO Conference on Food Loss and Waste 2019 that took place in Geneva on 20 November 2019.

The solutions may vary depending on the priorities or contexts in a particular country. Is food loss or food waste the main problem? What types of food are being lost? Is more carbon-emitting food being lost? These were among the key issues raised in the expert discussions. In Belgium for instance, 14% of the food waste is liquid. As a preventive measure, coffee vending machines with size options have been introduced in offices.

Experts from Belgium, the Slovak Republic, Switzerland, FAO and UNECE presented key policy and good practice examples from their respective work (see presentations at http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=52666). The event was organized jointly by UNECE and the FAO Liaison office in Geneva.

For more resources to help tackle food loss and waste, visit http://www.unece.org/trade/agr/unece-foodlosschallenge.html


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