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U.S. State Department Event Addresses Role of Postharvest Loss in Global Food Security
On February 19, United States Department of State leaders hosted a conference titled “Food Security and Minimizing Postharvest Loss,” focusing on global food waste and its impact in the developing world.
U.S. and foreign government officials, aid workers, and private-sector representatives brought their knowledge in varying areas of expertise to share.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization expects global population to reach nine billion by 2050. As a result of this growing population and rising incomes, food demand will increase by 60 percent.
Assistant Secretary for Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez opened the conference with this statement, met with wide agreement: “One of the surest – and arguably most affordable – ways to feed more people sustainably is to ensure that the food already produced is not lost or wasted between the farm and the table.”
From a shared understanding of the role reducing postharvest losses can play in food and nutrition security, Mr. Fernandez identified three goals: Define the problem of postharvest losses; identify causes; and find ways to work together toward a solution.
Mr. Fernandez shared that in sub-Saharan Africa, about $4 billion of grain is lost each year: more than the total value of food aid sent to the region over the last decade and enough grain to feed at least 48 million people.
In some Asian and African countries, farmers and producers are losing 30 percent or more of output in large part due to lack of refrigeration and poor transportation. In turn, high postharvest loss decreases farmers’ income and hinders their ability to investment in processing and storage equipment that would reduce postharvest loss.
Mr. Fernandez, however, expressed his confidence in the problem-solving ability of American businesses. He mentioned the efforts by Land O’Lakes to reduce dairy spoilage in Uganda. Their collaboration with the Ugandan government resulted in postharvest loss decreasing from 50 percent to less than ten.
Similar improvements are possible throughout the developing world. Private-sector organizations are willing and able to contribute to development in such regions, where producers benefit from access to credit, capital, and equipment, provided the local regulatory and business climates allow.
See Assistant Secretary Jose Fernandez’s full remarks at www.state.gov/e/eb/rls/rm/2013/204902.htm.
Several postharvest loss resources provided by the U.S. Department of State are available at www.globalharvestinitiative.org/index.php/2013/02/resources-on-reducing-postharvest-loss.