Food loss and food waste in Asia

3 ways Asia is cutting down food loss and food waste along the value chain  

Every year, 1.3 tons is lost and wasted globally with 53% of food waste coming from Asia. Around 25% of the waste comes from South and Southeast Asia, while Industrialized Asia (China, Japan, South Korea) contributes to 28% of global food waste. On the other hand, nearly half a billion people in Asia Pacific remain undernourished. Therefore, the prevention of food loss/waste is a way to reduce this hunger issue. Moreover, the food waste in landfills that is decomposed or burned produces methane gas, which is 21 times more damaging to the environment than CO2. Due to this pressing issue, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals aim to diminish food loss and food waste by 2030. Hence, it is key for Asia to be actively tackling the food loss and food waste problem. In this article, we look at three ways to cut down food loss and food waste and the opportunities along the value chains.

Enhancing agricultural production and processing through technology to reduce food loss

Most of the food loss in Asia occurs at the smallholder farmers level and one-third of edible food that is wasted globally comes before the farm gate. In the farm, many factors lead to damaged crops and production losses such as inadequate soil management, pest control, and inefficiency in harvesting techniques and food processing. A study in Cassava food loss shows that 70% of losses in Thailand occur during the harvest and deterioration post-harvest. Hence, it is essential to enhance awareness and technique to reduce food loss for smallholder farmers.

This can be performed through education, training, and encouraging the use of technology in their farms. For instance, CropLife International, which is a consortium of agricultural companies, has formed 300 public-private partnership and trained more than 3 million smallholder farmers on pest control and reduction of food loss during and after harvest. Furthermore, an agritech startup Tun Yat in Myanmar enables smallholder farmers to rent affordable and high-quality farming machines through a mobile application to improve crop yield and reduce food loss.

Reducing Food Loss with Improved Logistics

The lack of cold storage and transportation systems is one of the major causes of food loss. For instance, only 10% of perishable food in India have cold storage systems. This leads to the loss of 20 to 30% of fruits and vegetables because of the lack of refrigerated trucks and storage. A study from Maersk Line shows that improving the cold chain in India for bananas would lift exports from 3,000 containers to 190,000 containers annually.

As a result, countries are investing in the implementation of cold supply chains, like the national cold supply rail development for food logistics in India, Indonesia and Thailand. On the business side, several services based on the Internet of Things (IoT) are developed by logistics companies and startups to improve food logistics. Maersk Line has developed a remote container management software, which allows their clients to monitor refrigerated containers in real time as they move. Furthermore, Freshurety, a food tech startup, is able to measure the freshness of fruits through disposable sensors that can identify the ripeness of fruit palettes, enabling the customers to minimize waste due to rotting fruit.

Recycling & Repurposing Food Waste

Governments are concerned about food loss and waste problems and are taking action through recycling and repurposing programs. The Singapore National Environment Agency provides a $1.76 million food waste fund that covers the capital cost of food waste treatment solutions. The fund helps companies to purchase food recycling equipment that can convert food waste into animal feed. The Singapore government also has a pilot project to test the feasibility of using on-site systems for food recycling at 7 hawker centers.

In addition, companies along the value chain also improve how they repurpose and recycle unmarketable crops, byproducts, and food waste into donations or other products such as compost.

For instance, Tesco Malaysia donates the extra food stocks to more than 130 local charity homes, amounting for more than 600 tons of food per year. Furthermore, there are many start-ups addressing food loss in the hospitality and catering industries through repurposing the leftover food. The Grub Bites app in Malaysia allows consumers to purchase surplus food from restaurants and cafes at bargain prices. In Indonesia, there is Garda Pangan, a startup that saves food from the hospitality industry and distributes it to the poor or farms to be processed into compost.

Food loss and waste are pressing issues that require multiple prevention approaches along the food value chains. The coordination of different stakeholders is essential to reduce food loss and waste.

Governments and Non-Governmental Organizations play key roles by setting up regulations and initiatives towards achieving the 2030 SDGs target. More importantly, companies along the food value chain have an essential role to prevent food loss by improving the efficiency from production, processing, and logistics. At the end of the value chain, any excess of food can be donated, repurposed, or recycled to prevent food waste. Within the Alcimed team, we are ready to help you explore innovations and new collaborative approaches towards solving the food loss and waste problem.


A propos des auteurs
Bettina, Business Director and Thoriq, Senior Consultant in Alcimed’s Life Sciences team in Asia-Pacific

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