Home Opinion and Features 45% of available food supply in SA is wasted – study

45% of available food supply in SA is wasted – study

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Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Businesses and households have been urged to reduce food losses significantly as a study by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) found that 45 percent of the available food supply in South Africa was wasted, which pointed to issues with the food value chain.

BUSINESSES and households have been urged to reduce food losses significantly as a study by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) found that 45 percent of the available food supply in South Africa was wasted, which pointed to issues with the food value chain..

The findings of the recently released study showed that about 10.3 million tons a year of food earmarked for human consumption did not reach the stomach. This was equivalent to 34 percent of local food production, but because South Africa is a net exporter of food, the losses and waste were equivalent to 45 percent of the available food supply in the country.

The results pointed to a high level of inefficiency in the food value chain at a time when there is increasing food insecurity in South Africa.

CSIR principal researcher Professor Suzan Oelofse said the updated figures were in the same order of magnitude as the 2013 estimates, but the distribution of the losses and waste across the value chain had changed.

“The majority of South Africa’s food losses and waste, 68 percent, occur in the early stages of production, with 19 percent occurring during post-harvest handling and storage, and 49 percent during processing and packaging,” Oelofse said.

“Food waste at the consumption stage is 18 percent, more than three times higher than previous estimates. In terms of commodity groups, cereals contribute 50 percent of the overall losses and waste, followed by fruit and vegetables at 19 percent, milk at 14 percent, and meat at 9 percent.”

The new CSIR study, which was aimed at increasing reliable, scientific data and information on food losses and waste in South Africa, was funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) in terms of the Waste Research, Development and Innovation Roadmap.

The DSI’s director of environmental services and technologies, Dr Henry Roman, said if South Africa was to achieve the target of halving per capita food waste at the retail and consumer levels, and reduce food losses along production and supply chains by 2030, South Africa needed to inform action through robust scientific evidence.

The project builds on the CSIR’s research into food waste undertaken between 2010 and 2015, which, until now, was the only national quantitative and economic research on food waste.

In response, the CSIR has released a Food Waste Prevention and Management Guideline for South Africa to raise awareness of food wastage throughout the supply chain, but specifically at consumer level, in order to address food wastage before it reached the same levels as in the developed world.

The guideline includes information on the drivers of and possible actions that can be taken to prevent and manage food waste throughout the food supply chain. It provides practical tips on how farmers, households and distributors can reduce food losses and waste, because it impacts their income.

Oelofse said that robust action was required by all stakeholders across the food value chain, from farm to fork, to reduce food losses and waste meaningfully by 2030.

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