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Paradigm shift needed to avert global food crisis

With the global population set to hit 9.5 billion by 2075 according to United Nations estimates, there is an increasing pressure to boost global food supply in the coming decades.

Currently, vast quantities of foodstuffs, estimated at 30 to 50 per cent of total global production, are lost or wasted between the farm and consumer, according to a recent study by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, entitled, “Global Food: waste not, want not”.

The study highlighted that there is a need to focus on the expansion and improvement of infrastructure ranging from farm equipment, roads and railways, electricity generation and distribution systems, potable water supplies, waste disposal systems and storage buildings.

“ Further wastage results from the commercial practices of modern supermarkets that demand cosmetically perfect foodstuffs and encourage the more-affluent consumers to purchase excessive quantities,” it said.

In less-developed countries, such as those of sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia, wastage tends primarily to occur at the farmer-producer end of the supply chain.

The study said that inefficient harvesting, inadequately engineered local transport systems and deficiencies in infrastructure mean that crops are frequently handled poorly and stored under unsuitable farm site conditions or in inadequate local facilities.

In South-East Asian countries, for example, wastage of rice ranges from 37 per cent to 80 per cent of the entire production, depending on development stage, and total about 180 million tonnes annually.

In China, a country experiencing rapid development, the figure is about 45 per cent whereas in less-developed Vietnam, rice losses between the field and the table can amount to 80 per cent  of production.

“ The only sustainable strategy for providing sufficient food for future generations is not only to seek the most efficient and effective methods of food production, but also to concentrate effort on ensuring that as much of that food as possible is utilized by the human population,” the study stressed.

To prevent a future global food crisis, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers suggests that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) works with the international engineering community to ensure the transfer of suitable technology such as those in produce-handling and post-harvest stages of food production to developing countries.

The study also said that transport infrastructure and storage must be in place, and that governments must implement policy that discourage excessive consumer purchasing.

Click the link below to read the full study of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, entitled, “Global Food: waste not, want not”

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