Reality of food losses: A new measurement methodology
This paper (PDF) by authors from IFPRI, IOB Antwerp and the Worldbank aims to improve the methodology used to measure food loss across food value chains and to identify the causes of food loss. The traditionally used measurement methodology is tested with three new methodologies that aim to reduce the measurement error in assessing the magnitude of food loss. The methods account for losses from the pre-harvest stage through product distribution and include both quantity loss and quality deterioration. The instrument are applied to producers, middlemen, and processors in seven staple food value chains in five developing countries. Measured losses at the producer level represent between 60 and 80 percent of total value chain losses, while the average loss at the middleman and processor level lies around 7 and 19 percent, respectively. While the estimation results from the three new methods are close, the aggregate self-reported method reports systematically lower loss figures. It is found that major reasons behind food loss included pests and diseases and lack of rainfall; lack of appropriate harvesting techniques for the produce left in the field; and damage done during selection for post-harvest losses, as a result of workers’ lack of training and experience in selecting the produce. Therefore, technology, improved seeds and the proper soil management techniques together with better market access could help to substantially reduce the losses at the producer level.