Blog Post

Reducing food loss and waste to improve food and nutrition: Recommendations for the G20

By: Luciana Delgado, IFPRI

A recent brief by authors from the World Bank, IFPRI and the University of Antwerp notes that reducing food loss and waste can improve food and nutrition security. The brief was prepared through the T20 program as part of the preparation for the G20 meetings in Argentina that took place this month.

The authors note that measuring food loss and waste, identifying where in the food system it occurs, and developing effective policies along the value chain are essential first steps toward addressing the problem. Food loss and food waste have become an increasingly important topic in the development community. In fact, the United Nations included the issue of food loss and waste in the Sustainable Development Goal target 12.3, which aims to “halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses” by 2030. While FAO and IFPRI had developed the Technical Platform on Measurement and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste , the implementation of a strategy to reduce food loss faces three important challenges. First, no accurate information exists about the extent of the problem, especially in developing countries. A second challenge is the scarce evidence regarding the source of food loss; and a third challenge is the limited evidence regarding the mechanisms to successfully reduce food loss across the value chain.

To address these challenges the brief suggests the following:
Mainstream a common measurement methodology for food loss and waste across the value chain with concrete targets at regional and country level: In this context identifying the magnitude, causes and costs of food loss and waste across the value chain is critical to promoting reduction interventions and setting priorities for action. In addition, the identification of critical bottlenecks calls for an integrated value chain approach and the coordination among a wide diversity of actors, including multi-disciplinary researchers, policymakers, private sectors, and civil society actors. Addressing food loss and waste requires a common understanding of the concept by all actors. The priority focus should be on waste in more developed countries and on food loss in developing countries keeping in mind how to leapfrog best practices to reduce waste. The authors propose a pilot in which the World Bank in partnership with IFPRI will implement a methodology for food loss and use existing best practices to measure food waste (see Delgado, et al. 2017 and Fusions 2014).

Context-specific cost-benefit analyses must be systematically carried out to identify the most sustainable, cost-energy, and socially-efficient food loss and waste reduction interventions: In addition, it should also include environmental benefits, distributional effects and general equilibrium impacts.

Increase coordination among MDBs, Regional Banks, International Organizations, Governments and private sector to properly target interventions and investment to the specific causes of food loss and waste identified. There is a clear need to reinforce the Technical Platform of Food Loss and Waste. In addition, this platform should identify where the public sector can play a role versus the private sector.

Luciana Delgado is a Research Analyst in the Markets, Trade, and Institutions Division