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Target 5 – Zero loss or waste of food

July 1, 2014 By: F&BKP Office

The consultation on Dutch food security policy was closed on September 15, 2014. The consultation was originally opened by the Food & Business Knowledge Platform on July 01, 2014. The purpose of the consultation was to ensure that the newest topics and debates on food security are included in the food security policy paper, which the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Economic Affairs will send to the Dutch Parliament at the end of this year.
On September 30, 2014, the F&BKP has published its final report (PDF), which has been sent to both ministries. All contributions posted during the consultation remain available online and can be downloaded in a document (PDF) with an easy search tool.

Please find below all comments received concerning Target 5: How can the Netherlands most effectively contribute to achieving the target Zero loss or waste of foodWe thank all contributors for their participation and inspirational input.

Questions which have been addressed in the contributions are:

  • What do you consider the biggest challenges in achieving Zero loss or waste of food?
  • What are the most effective intervention strategies to address these global challenges? Which actors need to play a role to make this happen?
  • How does that relate to the Netherlands’ strengths and to actors from government, the business community, knowledge institutes and civil society?
  • What implications would this have for the policy choices of the Dutch Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Economic Affairs?

Target 5 – Zero loss or waste of food

Minimizing food losses during storage and transport, and waste of food by retailers and consumers; empowering consumer choice through appropriate labeling; commitments by producers, retailers and consumers within all nations; achieving progress through financial incentives, collective pledges, locally-relevant technologies and changed behavior.

Source: Zero Hunger Challenge


15 Contributions to “Target 5 – Zero loss or waste of food”

  1. Greet Goverde
    Secr. Platfrom Aarde Boer Consument, Netherlands
    "Democratisation of the food system from the local level upwards"

    Vandana Shiva: ‘The centralisation of production and with that the centralisation of distribution by its very necessity means waste. There is no waste in living systems. There is no waste in ecological farming systems. There is no waste in local food systems. I grew many crops, all of them are used: some for the soil, some for the cow. I say, in India nothing gets wasted; the cows are always waiting. Or the earthworms are waiting. It only becomes waste when either it is sent a long distance or stored in centralised food systems. Agriculture today is for trucks, not human beings –‘how long can it sit on a truck?’ And then it has to be the identical size. That’s why they tried to develop square tomatoes’…… ‘The monoculture output is measured in a yield of a single commodity per acre which leaves the farm. So the grain of wheat is measured as a yield but not the straw that should stay on the farm. So what should be recycled on the farm is treated as waste and is not allowed to return to the soil. In Punjab this package has meant that the monoculture has been harvested by combine harvesters and they leave a huge stock of straw which they then have to burn. If any of you try to come to Delhi in winter and you cannot land because of the smog, that’s partly their contribution.’

    Recycling at the household level partly explains why the average individual consumers’ waste of edible foodstuffs is 95 kilos for the average European consumer and 9-10 kilos in SS Africa and South Asia. In the South most of the waste happens at field level. Besides the production waste such as the straw mentioned above there is the lack of transport, the quality of the roads and the lack of local processing. These are reasons why poor people are not well connected to the markets. As a result 650 million tons of commodities are wasted every year. In the North wastage occurs in the food chain (Vandana Shiva: ‘agriculture for trucks’), besides at the household level.

    There is no denying that a lot of the wastage is connected with the centralisation of production and of distribution. So again the suggested solution is: democratisation of the food system from the local level upwards, and the development of local agro-ecological agriculture Governments in the South as well as our own ministry should reinvest in local agriculture. We need food policies, even at the local level, that integrate food production with the environment, including the reduction of waste. At the international level trade regulations should be adjusted in order to facilitate this transition (see also target 2, and see e.g. http://www.alternativetrademandate.org. Some of the measures proposed: allow for the regulation of imports, exports and investments in order to realise social, cultural and political human rights; contribute to people-centred regional integration; stop the privatisation and deregulation of public goods; etc.)

  2. Anneke Sipkens/ Clementine O'Connor
    Director Sustainability, Deloitte - Netherlands/France
    "Measuring food waste"

    “The Netherlands was a forerunner in introducing landfill bans on biodegradable waste in 1995. Other EU Member States could benefit from similar policy that stimulates more efficient use of food resources. However, it is important to ensure that landfill bans do not simply shift waste management to anaerobic digestion but that accompanying measures result in effective waste prevention.

    Quantification is at the heart of the issue. There has not historically been an accepted methodology for quantifying food waste in the EU, and the Netherlands has updated its approach in recent years. The EU project FUSIONS, led by Wageningen University (NL) in partnership with Deloitte (FR) and others, will deliver a coherent approach to food waste quantification, to support Member States in reporting comparable data. FUSIONS are collaborating with the WRI Food Loss and Waste Protocol team, who are working to harmonise food waste measurement globally. Measurement enables supply chain actors to understand where waste is originating, as an essential first step in building reduction strategies. UK food retailer Tesco was a frontrunner in publishing its own food waste data, and we expect this trend towards transparency to gain momentum across the EU.

    New Guidance developing food waste prevention programmes was published by the United Nations Environment Programme in May this year, based on the experience of UK food waste expert WRAP together with global case studies. The Guidance, aimed at countries, cities and companies, will be piloted and enriched in the coming years, and is publicly available here.

    One specific area which is readily actionable by governments as well as retailers actors is aesthetic standards for produce. Untold quantities of edible produce are ploughed under or discarded because they fail to meet current standards on shape, size and colour. Recent campaigns by a handful of retailers in Europe have shown that consumers are much more flexible than has been previously assumed, and are responding proactively to embrace so-called “ugly fruit”. The acceptance of produce in its natural diversity could generate significant gains in food use efficiency across the global supply chain.”

  3. Lotte Sluiter & Ries Kamphof
    OneWorld/FoodGuerilla/NCDO, Netherlands
    "Food waste consumers"

    Within the chain of food production we as NCDO, OneWorld and FoodGuerrilla still consider reducing food waste on the level of the consumers to be one of the biggest challenges. Food waste awareness and reduction on the level of consumers only will not solve the problem of worldwide food waste and losses entirely. However, reduction combined with pressure from consumers towards retailers, industries and farmers to save food will invoke questions being asked and a shift in demand towards less food waste. In our opinion the consumer is the key, by making reducing food waste the norm in a fun and easy way. Two strategies should be implemented to achieve this goal: campaigning and nudging.

    • Raising awareness by using campaigns and giving advice on how to recycle or upcycle food. e.g. replanting spring-onions, make pasta salad out of cooked pasta, make smoothie from old fruits etc. Making not-wasting the social norm.
    • Since food waste is part of decision making processes that are often not conscious (food is cheap and not much effort is needed to get the food, nor to dispose the food), nudging is desired. Nudging are ways of influencing choice without limiting the amount of choices, by making alternatives appreciably more costly in terms of time, trouble, social sanctions, etc. Nudging is called for because of flaws in individual decision-making, and they work by making use of those flaws (Hausman & Welch 2010, p. 126). To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008, p. 6).

    Some suggestions and best practices:
    • Not-wasting is the social norm, the standard. In restaurants for example, taking home food is the norm, not the exception. Initiatives as the Tas Toe or the Foodie Bag focus on taking leftovers from restaurants home.
    • Reduce the size of your plate can change the physical and visual norm
    • Clever packaging, adding proper quantity measures, using return-bonuses (think of cartridges, glasses at festivals) or packaging to change colour overtime to visualize the expiration date
    Using gamification and the fun theory for nudging

    Actors responsible for raising awareness and nudging for consumers in our opinion are: 1) the government for creating possibilities, links and money to experiment with nudging 2) the industry for taking up food waste as marketing tool that is fun and easy, 3) knowledge institutes for knowledge on nudging and food behaviour 4) the media for introducing new social norms 5) civil society and social entrepreneurs for bright ideas and thinking outside the box, and civil organisations for boosting and support processes towards zero food waste.

    We recommend to target policy choices to monitoring and evaluation of nudging, by investing in research (survey and behavioural experiments) to have a clear idea on the Dutch and food waste, if necessary on a wider European and global scale. We do not recommend sanctions as this would contradict and hinder the transition to more sustainable consumption, and less food waste. Further, the industry, especially oriented towards nudging the new social norm of non-wasting can be encouraged.

  4. Jeroen Candel
    PhD Candidate Food Security Governance, Wageningen UR, Netherlands
    "The relations between food wastage interventions and food security: lessons from a systematic literature review"

    Together with Joris Tielens I recently performed a systematic literature review on the relation between food wastage (food waste + losses) interventions and (enhancing) food security. This study was commissioned by the Food & Business Knowledge Platform and its report can be found here.

    One of the most remarkable findings of this study was that although the claim that global food security could benefit from reducing wastage proved pervasive among government actors, NGOs, and private stakeholders, there is a lack of evidence and sound understanding regarding the causality between these interventions and food (in)security. This is particularly the case for possible impacts of reducing food waste in developed countries on food security in developing countries. Other findings that are relevant for this consultation were:

    • Various pre- and post-harvest loss reduction actions can have a direct impact on food security. This is particularly true for interventions targeted at smallholder agriculture in developing countries, such as rodent management and metal silos.
    • Another intervention that proved to have a direct impact is the donation of food residues to people in need in developed countries, for example through food banks.
    • Although a reduction of food wastage has the potential of positively affecting world food prices, the extent to and ways in which this would occur needs to be determined by future research.
    • Reducing wastage seems a more efficient and sustainable way of meeting increasing world food demand than a dominant focus on increasing production. It could contribute to a smaller expansion of land used for agricultural production and to reduced pressures on water and energy.
    • The success of wastage interventions depends on various contextual factors, such as the economic, environmental, and food security pay-offs from investments, expertise and education, and an enabling political and institutional environment.

    We further found that food wastage interventions should be part of a broader, more holistic approach, if one wants to address wastage and enhance food security effectively. Some scholars go even further by arguing that a fixation on wastage reduction is not the right way forward, because they see wastage as a symptom of underlying causes rather than a problem that stands on its own. Interventions should therefore be targeted at these underlying causes. Furthermore, food security will not be ensured by wastage interventions alone. These interventions should therefore be accompanied by further strengthening local, regional and national food systems. Hereby, the food security dimension of access should not be overseen.

  5. Boniface Kiome
    Prog Officer Green Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development at Hivos - East Africa, Kenya

    The current program in Kenya, via a consortium of Hivos, SNV & Solidaridad, is to strengthen smallholder entrepreneurial farmers in Kenya. It doesn’t pay attention to food wastage linked to production and distribution. Should be part of the food security programs.

  6. Danny Wijnhoud and Barbara van Paassen
    Senior Researcher; Policy Advisor - ActionAid Amsterdam - Netherlands
    "Minimizing and therefore substantially reducing loss or waste of food"

    A target of zero loss or waste refers to an unrealistic ideal but the target should be to minimizing and therefore substantially reducing loss and waste of food.

    Recommendations and attention points are the following:

    • Generate awareness about and skills training (f/m) on food processing and conservation of nutritious foods
    • Generate awareness (f/m) about edible and nutritious crop and animal products that are currently being wasted; make better use of crop residues and organic “waste” for soil fertility management like composting, ploughing back or mulching in integrated agroecological systems.
    • Research, learn about and influence the gendered aspects of local food preparation and food customs; women and men to divide burden of unpaid care tasks, including food preparation.
    • The promotion of short chains for local, sub-national and national food systems resulting in more local sourcing of food ingredients
    • Support investment in solid traditional or non-traditional storage facilities for staple crops at household, community / cooperative and sub-national levels and for instance in “inclusive” warehouse receipt system (WRS) arrangements serving continuous household access to food and higher off-season prices for surplus production.
    • Increase value addition, conservation, including traditional and non-traditional local cooling facilities, improve marketing of non-processed and processed non-staple food products including fruits, vegetables, nuts, vegetable oils, fish, diary and other animal products.
    • Invest in market and transport infrastructures for year-round inclusive local and sub-national food markets
    • Support product promotion and marketing on the basis of origin and traceability of ingredients.
    • Reduce food waste in global north and southern cities as to reduce the food resource foot print
    • End biofuel and other targets that divert food and resources away from their human consumption
    • Awareness creation with and support to urban communities as also relevant for their involvement in reducing loss and waste of food in general or when engaged in urban and peri-urban agriculture. Just to note that a large percentage of city dwellers in the global south periodically or part-time engage in crop farming or livestock production in peri-urban and rural areas.
    • Manage rural-urban dimensions of loss or waste of food.
    As to guarantee inclusive systems it is pertinent to invest first and foremost in human, social and political livelihood capital assets of vulnerable communities, in particular in girls and women.

  7. Edith Boekraad
    Cordaid, Director Food Security
    Support smallholders to make best value out of the harvest

    Food insecurity is not as such a result of food losses and waste. We live in a world of abundance, where there is sufficiently food for all, even when and where losses and waste occur. Losses and waste are a secondary outcome of our production and food systems. The real global challenge is how to ensure that everyone effectively has adequate access to the food available (i.e. Target 1).

    Development interventions down the value chain (beyond production; e.g. at harvest, in storage and in processing) are important, though, for smallholders and their organizations to make best money (value) out of the crop produced. Dutch food security policies might more specifically support education and training about best practices and appropriate technologies to optimize the processes of harvesting, on-farm processing, and storage before sale or consumption. Private sectors can be encouraged even more to innovate in smart solutions for post harvest losses benefiting small scale farmers and local entrepreneurs.

  8. Danielle Hirsch
    Director of BothENDS, Netherlands
    "Focus on local and regional food systems and closing nutrient and water cycles"

    The big challenges for zero loss and waste of food are 1) the focus on long value chains with many steps in between, 2) nutrient and water mining on the producing side of the chain and nutrient accumulation at the consuming side of the chain and 3) unsustainable diets that consists of too much animal proteins.

    We see 3 options for transition:

    • Stimulate sustainable production and consumption through shifting focus to local and regional food and agricultural systems, closing nutrient and water cycles and stimulating diversification in agricultural production and agrobiodivisity. This will result in shorter chains, less food movements/ transportation of food and therefore less waste.
    • Promote environmental and people friendly diets. This includes pushing diets that are based on less animal protein. Animal husbandry is far less optimised than the production of crops, when taking into account all the inputs (land, land tenure, chemicals, animal antibiotics, biological pest control, fossil fuel based fertilizers, fodder, animal manure, labour, mechanisation, agrobiodiversity, transportation) and outputs (harvest, ecosystem services, water retention, soil health nutritional value).
    • Support knowledge and practice development on closing nutrient and water cycles, optimised (short) value chains, local and regional food systems.

  9. Nehemiah Gitonga
    Executive Director, Tenacious Systems Kenya - Farmsoft, ICT - Farming and Food Industry
    "Accurate Food Demand and Supply Forecasting"

    Ability to meet market requirements and consumer needs accurately, efficiently and sustainably is vital. In food demand and supply forecasting, using of ICT to create the link in the supply chain – from grower to processor, through to retailer ‘the traceability chain’ and consumer where operational planning based on a market/customer/consumers forward sales/demand forecast – can be entered up to 2 years in advance. This ‘Auto-forecast’ gives immediate projected availability as soon as planting is done which help to show what is available, of what quantity across the supply chain and precise alignment of farms and produce with the demands of a particular market segment – reducing error and wastage. Comparing with demand forecast to see potential excess and shortages in supply to help making critical decision to cover the projected short in food availability.

  10. Amos Thiongo
    Country Coordinator - Agri-ProFocus Kenya
    "Food waste in Export Value Chains"

    Kenya is a leading exporter of fresh fruits and vegetables to The Netherlands and to other EU nations. A recent study which Agri-ProFocus Kenya supported showed massive food losses in the export value chains – mainly due to ridiculous cosmetic standards imposed on growers and exporters by the importers and retailers in Europe. This leads to massive looses of safe and good food e.g. if an avocado is too big or too small or not oval shaped, its rejected. Equally, if a bean is too long, or too thick, or curved…. its again rejected. Daily over 200 tonnes of good food is wasted. This loss is transfered to poor small scale farmers since they are not paid for the rejected produce.

    The Dutch Government can play a critical role in reducing this unnecessary waste. Policies should be put in place against imposition of cosmetic standards – as long as the food is safe for consumption.

  11. Dr Geoff Andrews
    Country Director ZOA Burundi
    "Not a realistic objective; but critical contribution is infrastructure"

    My contribution comes from several years in senior technical management in the UK food industry and several years in humanitarian leadership.

    From a manufacturing perspective, the food raw material is one cost element in the processing, the others might be energy, labour, return on investment. In some situations, recovering the final few percent of the food stuff is not costs effective. Minimising waste becomes a cost benefit analysis: the easier it is to reduce loss or the higher the value of the raw material or the greater cost of disposal and the cost benefit analysis will change. I know of a situation where it made financial sense to send to landfill hundreds of tonnes of seasonal product: disposal was cheap, the financial incentive to fulfill the market demand justified a measure of over production and disposal of the surplus.
    So in an industrial setting, food raw materials must be considered just one of the elements of the cost mix. Change the financial calculation and you change the behaviour.

    In a poor agricultural context, the critical contribution is infrastructure. Huge amounts of harvested materials are lost for want of drying, and secure storage away from water and humidity, infestation, fungal attack and theft. Invest in infrastructure or encourage governments to invest in infrastructure and waste will go down.

  12. Sidi Sanyang
    Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)
    "People take more than what they need in the name of civilized culture"

    In general, ‘waste of food’ is associated with poor storage conditions and ‘bad’ eating habits.
    Bad eating habit: much food is thrown because people always take more than what they need in the name of ‘civilized culture’ — eating all the food in your plate is seen as uncultured. Why do we have to take so much food when we fully know we will not eat all and yet, many remain hungry and malnurished.
    Poor storage conditions: in many hot (high temperatures) regions the key challenge is not only post-harvest and add value technological solutions, but technologies and innovations should be coupled with infrastructure such as cold storage facility to sustainably reduce waste of food. Thus investments are needed in infrastucture in the energy sector and investments in such energy should be largely based on renewal energy including agricultural by-products.

  13. Hans Eenhoorn
    Member of Worldconnectors
    "With adequate investment and training these losses could be drastically reduced"

    It is estimated (FAO) that about one third of all food produced for human consumption never reaches the stomach. Roughly one-third of the edible parts of food produced for human consumption, gets lost or wasted globally, which is about 1.3 billion ton per year. Significant amounts of the food produced in developing countries are lost both before, during and after harvest thereby aggravating hunger. The causes of harvest losses, which could (dependant on product) range from 15 to as high as 75 percent of what is produced, are manifold. These include: harvesting at an incorrect stage of produce maturity, pests, excessive exposure to rain, drought or extremes of temperature, contamination by micro-organisms and physical damage that reduces the value of the product. Crops also lose value because of spillage, poor storage, damage from inappropriate tools, inappropriate processing, packing or transportation. With adequate investment and training these losses could be drastically reduced. In developed countries also huge amounts of food are wasted in the retail trade, in home and out-of-home (e.g. restaurants ) and because of excess production. Better planning, new thinking about “the best before date” and a reorientation on quality criteria (retail mindset) and on the value of food (consumer mindset) could contribute to the reduction of waste.

    The critical entry point for improvements in harvest systems is the farm but, the transition to market-driven systems and greater reliance on the private sector, necessitate that harvest-losses interventions be embedded within the context of value chains. The food supply chains in developing countries need to be strengthened by, inter alia, encouraging small farmers to organize and to diversify and upscale their production and marketing. Investments in infrastructure, storage, transportation, food processing and packaging are also required. Both the public and private sectors have a role to play in achieving this goal. Actions should not only be directed towards isolated parts of the chain, since what is done (or not done) in one part has effects in others. A holistic approach is required.

    The 1-2-1 initiative’s objective is to mobilize Dutch society in the broadest sense to make a relevant contribution to harvest loss reduction in the developing world and food waste reduction in The Netherlands. This includes a positive mindset change towards food waste reduction and development cooperation, aiming at poverty and hunger reduction through development of efficient agro-food value-chains.

    a) Establish a multi-stakeholder cooperation between the Netherlands and one country in Sub-Saharan Africa, to reach a shared and tangible goal, e.g. 50% reduction in food losses in one or two value chains in both countries by 2020.
    b) Scale-up existing initiatives in The Netherlands to change the consumer mindset about food-waste and create adequate penalties and rewards to stimulate the private sector to reduce food-waste.

    Limiting this initiative, in first instance, to cooperation with one country and one or two selected value-chains is necessary to be able to manage the complexity, keep control over progress and enhance the chance on success. This initiative is meant to be a demonstration-project to determine the “proof of principle”, that a holistic approach of the harvest-loss and waste problem through a multi-stakeholder cooperation, can deliver positive results for all stakeholders involved. In particular the private sector must be offered the opportunity to make sustainable profits on investments necessary to reduce losses and waste.

    Given the magnitude of food losses, making profitable investments in reducing these losses, could be one way of reducing the cost of food, improving availability, accessibility and utilization of food and thus contribute to food security and business development.

    • Jan Willem Eggink
      Network Facilitator, The Netherlands
      "Tough reality; attempts 1-2-1 initiative failed"

      Although the idea of the 1-2-1 food losses initiative as described by Hans Eenhoorn above is attractive, it is only fair to admit that several attempts to take a 1-2-1 food losses initiative off the ground failed.

      Agri-ProFocus did quite some research on what country would be interested to ‘twin’ with The Netherlands on food-loss reduction. We were near with Kenya, but when our sponsor in the government got another job, we were back to zero. Not to speak of the difficulties of finding the right parties in The Netherlands. The problem with the whole 1-2-1 initiative is that it requires quite some different high level parties dedicated to a specific approach which does not always feels logical for each of them. More in general I think reduction of food-losses is not one issue, but a broad array of issues adding up to a – in this case – quite easily measurable effect.

      This holds true for developing countries where reduction of food-losses comes down to improved post-harvest handling all along the food-chain as in developed countries where the issue is more related to food industry marketing, over cautious food safety regulations and consumer and restaurant purchase strategies. The fact is that food losses are the sum of many small steps in the chain. The only one-haul measure which makes sense in my opinion is paying farmers better prices for their crops and thus making food-losses up the chain more expensive.

  14. Kahindo Suhene Marie Jeanne
    Program Officer Food Security at NGO GRADEM
    "Markets play a key role"

    Food loss or waste comes either from:
    1. Insufficient crop transformation and conservation possibilities and capacities: overproduction without markets forces the small exploiter to consume everything during a certain period, causing a loss of food appetite. Products of different origins could be consumed with more appetite through curiosity and drained to markets more easily.
    2. Diversification of cultivated products that are favoured by local and international markets.
    3. The market: absence or difficult access to the market or inability of market resistance to competitiveness.

    Needed are techniques and methods of popularization of transformation and product conservation practices in every production environment, even as the notion of economic calculation linked to profitability and proportional or large scale yields. Besides a decrease of food wastage this will increase productivity and income of small holder farmers. Also strategies should be developed to reduce limits and constraints of access to local and international markets. Also the connexion of small operators worldwide should be facilitated.​