The WWF and Tesco have published a report, Driven to Waste: Global Food Loss on Farms, that estimates 2.5 billion tonnes of food – or approximately 40 per cent of total global production – is wasted each year.
Of that amount, some 1.2 billion tonnes are lost on farms. I had previously understood that most farm wastage occurs in poorer countries. Still, the report shows that 58 per cent of global harvest waste occurs in Europe, North America, and industrialized Asia.
In addition to the food lost on farms, 931 million tonnes are wasted each year in retail, foodservice, and consumer homes. The remainder is lost in the post-farmgate transport, storage, manufacturing, and processing stages. In their estimates, the WWF includes agricultural production destined initially for human consumption but diverted instead to animal feed.
The last analysis of the total loss and waste from farm to fork was conducted by the UN’s FAO in 2011 when they estimated it at about 33 per cent.
Staying on the theme of waste, UK charities have asked the prime minister to introduce an anti-waste law after videos emerged of Amazon workers in Scotland destroying in-date groceries – as well as household goods.
However, food shortages, not food waste, are the UK Prime Minister’s current priority, with a shortage of workers leading to unstocked shelves. In what has been called a ‘pingdemic’, an over-zealous Covid-contact-tracing app is telling too many workers to quarantine.
Poor weather, labour shortages, rising freight rates and supply bottlenecks have led Unilever to warn that they face their most significant cost increases for years.
The Northern US and Canada drought is prompting farmers to sell their wheat and barley as hay for livestock operators. Cattle breeders have asked for permission to graze their herds on land in the Conservation Reserve Program.
The worst frost in 20 years hit Brazil’s coffee areas last week, sending prices to multi-year highs. The story made it into the mainstream media. Analysts worry that the frost could have long term repercussions as it has killed or damaged young coffee trees.
If you have a subscription to the Economist (I don’t), you can read how ‘big agriculture is having a field day as food prices soar’: cereal entrepreneurs, they say, are milking it. I wonder, though, whether the newspaper might be missing the point that agricultural prices are soaring because harvests are poor, making many farmers worse off.
High shipping costs are adding to the woes of the world’s farmers. Container lines are shipping empty containers from the US to Asia rather than facing the delays of having them filled.
Staying with freight, have you ever wondered if or when one of the tech giants like Amazon or Uber would enter the business of transporting bulk commodities? Well, Uber is increasing their footprint in the US trucking sector. Are ships next?
Some small-scale farmer organizations have called for a boycott of September’s UN Global Food Systems Summit in New York. They explain why here, although I am not convinced that their arguments are valid. (Engagement works better than boycotts.) They are currently holding a counter-summit, but it seems to have attracted little attention in the world’s media.
The South China Morning Post has published an opinion piece that argues that factory farming is a greater pandemic risk than the consumption of exotic animals. And if you have ever wondered how China produces a billion eggs a day, you will find the answer here. (Warning: It could put you off eating eggs.)
Nestlé has taken an interesting initiative in asking the public how they should deal with deforestation and forced labour in their palm-oil supply chain. And if you haven’t seen it yet, look at the WWF’s page on palm oil. It dates from last year, but it is still relevant.
Finally, the FT published two excellent ‘Big Reads’ this week. The first asks whether the commodity boom can revive Brazil’s economy. The second, what growing avocados in Sicily can tell us about climate change.
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