About 25 to 35 per cent of the foodstuffs produced globally get lost, so goes a report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Such wastage is unfortunate when one in nine persons in the world goes without food every day. Unsurprisingly, stressing sustainable food production to promote food security and nutrition, the UN in 2019 declared September 29 as the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. In a similar vein, the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 12.3 sets 2030 as the deadline for nations to reduce food loss by 50 per cent.
Obviously, inefficiencies as well as carelessness at various levels of the foodstuffs' movement from its production to the distribution channel---harvesting, transportation, storage and processing--- are to blame for such avoidable losses. Talking of the food wastage situation near at home, it can be likened to what happens in the global arena. The only difference is that the technology used here at different stages of the foodstuff's movement is marked by backwardness. Similarly, the food-related infrastructural facilities are fragile. And there is also a lack of awareness of the people involved at each level. Also, there is a scarcity of reliable data to assess the exact magnitude of foodstuff loss that takes place in the country.
On this score, the FAO's 2016 data show that during the foodstuffs' movement from the farm to the distribution points, 30 per cent cereal, 35 per cent fish and 45 per cent fruits and vegetables are lost. Evidently, the losses are colossal. What a difference could it make in our food security situation, if only the leakages could be plugged! And that option is also not outside the bounds of possibility. Therefore, to address the country's oft-iterated food security issue, the first step on the government's part should be to focus its attention on these gaps and remove them.
The issue of wastage is not concerned only with food security. To feed the ever-growing world population, land and water resources of the planet are being exploited more than ever before. Their negative environmental impacts need not be overemphasised. And that is more so for Bangladesh where the land and water resources are stretched to the limit. To meet the challenge, containment of food loss should be taken as an existential issue for us. One cannot also ignore its moral dimensions when an unknown number of people go hungry while food is being wasted with abandon at the consumption level.
As such, to ensure food security as well as to save land, water and energy, adoption of a comprehensive strategy is indispensible. To this end, it would be necessary to borrow from the experiences of the nations, particularly, Canada and some countries of the European Union (EU). The Nordic countries, for example, have developed effective conservation and loss reduction strategies in this regard. The aim should be to learn their best practices and introduce those in our own situation. Though a rather costly option, yet creation of a good data base on food loss would be an essential component of the strategy. The ongoing pandemic-induced containment measures have further exacerbated the food security issue. That should be a wakeup call for all concerned.