Halving Food Waste Can Save 153mn People from Hunger

Cutting food waste in half can reduce hunger for many people, according to a joint report by the OECD and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Reducing food waste can decrease greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate warming and end malnourishment for 153 million people around the world.

Increased Productivity

The report expects a growth in crop, livestock and fish production owing to the increase in food demand driven by growth in population. These increases will lead to a rise in direct emissions from agriculture by 5% over the next decade.

Meanwhile, the report projects wide gaps in productivity will continue, threatening food security and requiring more food imports.

Reducing Food Waste

About 14% of the world’s food, valued at $400bn is lost on an annual basis between harvest and the retail market worldwide. Meanwhile, another 17% of food is wasted at the retail and consumer levels.

The OECD‑FAO Agricultural Outlook 2023‑2032 includes a scenario simulating the impact of cutting food losses and food waste by half at the retail and household levels by 2030.

The scenario expects a potential 4% reduction in global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Furthermore, it projects a decline in food prices, leading to an increased food intake in low- and lower middle-income countries by 10% and 6% respectively. This, in turn, could reduce the number of undernourished people by 153 million by 2030.

Cutting global food waste by 50% by 2030 is a top priority for the UN and one of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Calorie Intake

According to the report, middle-income countries will see a 7% increase in average daily per capita calorie intake by 2033, due to the greater consumption of staples, livestock products and fats. In low-income countries, the average daily per capita calorie intake will increase by only 4%. This means that the global community will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 target of eliminating hunger by 2030.

Moreover, income constraints in these countries are hindering the transition to more nutrient- and protein-rich diets that depend on more animal products, fish, vegetables and fruits, causing a heavy reliance on staples.

Data Significance

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu stressed the importance of the report. He said that “the Outlook confirms the need to implement strategies that bridge productivity gaps in low- and middle-income countries to increase domestic production and boost farmers’ incomes.”

Similarly, OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said: “This Outlook has served as a valuable reference for policy planning, providing a sound evidence base and data for medium-term prospects for agricultural commodity markets.”

Cormann added that “Well-functioning agricultural markets, reducing food loss and waste, and more productive and less polluting forms of production will remain critically important for global food security and to ensure rural livelihoods can and do benefit from global agrifood value chains.”

Food Waste and Losses

According to FAO, food loss refers to the decrease in edible food mass at the production, post-harvest and processing stages of the food chain, mostly in developing countries. Food waste means the discard of edible foods at the retail and consumer levels, mostly in developed countries.

The UN Environment Program (UNEP) Food Waste Index Report 2024 estimates that nearly a fifth of all food produced for human consumption each year is wasted or lost before it can be consumed. This amounts to 1 billion meals a day. 60% of food waste happens at the household level.

The food loss and waste cost the global economy a total of nearly $1 trillion. Moreover, they generate up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Hotter countries experience higher levels of food waste, both at the household level and in the post-harvest phase, as high temperatures affect food storage, processing and transportation.

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