Oct 5, 2012

Food wastage in India is not 40 per cent but 5.8-18 per cent in fruits; 6.8 to 12.4 percent in veggies; and 4.3 to 6.1 per cent in cereals.

Wasted food at a landfill site in the United States. 

Sometimes, when I am finished with my meal at a marriage ceremony and go out to throw my patal (made from leaves) in the dustbin, I watch with great regret and concern when a team of urchins would descend to look for leftovers. After these children are done away with, I find the dogs moving in. At the same time I can spot a number of crows waiting for their turn.

The clamour for food security extends beyond us, the well-to-do.

What we therefore consider as food wastage becomes essential to meet the food security needs of not-so-lucky, and also that of the animals and birds. I have always therefore wondered whether food actually goes waste. I still find my mother providing a handful of kneaded wheat to the cows every morning, and also leave aside some chapatis for the dogs after dinner. What she does it so religiously is actually aimed at ensuring food security for the animals. Indian religion teaches us compassion and to believe in sharing and caring.  

This however does not mean that food does not get waste. In America and Canada, 40 per cent food is wasted, much of it at the household level. The landfills are full of stale food, adding greenhouses gases. There are studies which have computed the food wastage in the US, including this NRDC study (How America is losing up to 40 per cent of its food from farm to fork to landfill. http://bit.ly/QWpLOv). In fact, the other day on a TV show on FDI in retail the anchor asked me would FDI not help reduce the 40 per cent wastage we have in fruits and vegetables. My reply was that first I don't buy these figures, and secondly how can Wal-Mart curb food wastage when it has not been able to do so in America where 40 per cent food gets wasted. I think the anchor didn't even know that food wastage was so high in the US.

Nevertheless, where has this figure of 40 per cent food wastage in India come from? As a student of agriculture, some 30 years back, I remember my teachers would often quote this figure. And I find even now the same figure is being nauseatingly used again and again simply to justify FDI in retail. Prime Minister uses it, Food Minister K V Thomas too uses it, and of course the Wal-Mart Minister Anand Sharma has to use it. FICCI/CII have been playing it up. But now I find Rahul Gandhi going a step ahead and saying 60-70 per cent food gets wasted !

Sometimes back FICCI had asked McKinsey (or was it some other consulting firm?) to do a study on food wastage. It also came up with the imaginative figure of 40 per cent. Speak a lie a hundred times and it becomes a truth, isn't it?

The Central Institute of Post-Harvest Engineering & Technology (CIPHET) at Ludhiana has finally cleared the mist. Based on a nation-wide study to make quantitative assessment of harvest and post-harvest losses for 46 agricultural produces in 106 randomly selected districts in 2010, showed wastage in fruits to vary between 5.8 (in Sapota) to a maximum of 18 per cent (for Guava). In vegetables, cauliflower has the minimum loss at 6.8 per cent while tomato faces 12.4 per cent loss. 

Wastage for other items was much lower. For crops (3.9 to 6 per cent), cereals (4.3 to 6.1 per cent), pulses (4.3-6.1 per cent), oilseeds (6 per cent), meat (2.3 per cent), fish (2.9 per cent) and poultry (3.7 per cent).

These figures are much lower than the imaginative 40 per cent food wastage figure that is being tossed around. It only goes to show how we hype the crop losses to benefit the industries. This is primarily the reason why most Indian policies fail to deliver. If the foundation is faulty, based incorrect figures and estimates, the policy too will be faulty. Lots of people blame implementation to be the cause for tardy progress. I blame the wrong policies to be the primary cause for this lop-sided development.       


Nemani said...

What are some feasible ways to reduce food wastage at eateries?

Anonymous said...


I read your article on food wastage and it was an eye opener.
I would request you to put link to the original study which came out with the figure you mentioned. That would add a lot of weight to the article.


अमित भारतीय said...

प्रधानमंत्री जी आपसे कम से कम 20 साल बड़े होगेँ। अब इतनी उम्र मेँ तथ्योँ/आकड़ोँ को अपडेट करना मुश्किल होता है, हो सकता है कि वे अपने स्कूल के दिनोँ के ही आकड़ेँ याद किए हो!!
लेकिन अगर राहुल 60-70% बता रहे है तो फिर राहुल की उम्र क्या है.?!?

Anonymous said...

That's right in India food wastage is approx 45%. Dude all guys has not their own thought just they are also behind party... BJP supporter just says same thing as BJP leader will say..Congress supporter says things as Congress Leader will say...Dude now when are you going to be called i have grown up... I have mind and i can think myself...

Just see in old TATA motors was coming too bored once foreign motors companies came into India then TATA also feel competition and he has done very good job and now it's good position in motors. and like same thing lot of examples...So as per my thought neither congress nor BJP just my thought by FDI our country will be more developed and lot of competition will be and finally India will be going to developed..

Anonymous said...

Here is the link to NRDC study: "How America is losing up to 40 per cent of its food from farm to fork to landfill"


Play Angry-Bird Game said...

great post

Pat Nicolson said...

This was eye opener post.Is there any way to decrease the wastage of vegetable and fruits because these two play main role in our regular life Food Company In India

deepak said...

can you please quote the link from
Central Institute of Post-Harvest Engineering & Technology (CIPHET)which has came out with those figures???

Swarnalatha R said...

Unfortunately even in a buffet, people pile up their plates, only to throw away most of it. I feel home is the place to learn about not wasting food.

Ashu Sanap said...

I Want to do application on Food waste in which the place which have good waste food( likes hotels,restaurant,marriage ceremony etc) from there they can put they have waste food and the some organization which help the people which need food send the notification to those have in the area from where the post have upload.But I am not able to find such organization in India please help me out....