Sunday, Jun 12, 2022 06:15 [IST]

Last Update: Sunday, Jun 12, 2022 00:37 [IST]

Think, Plan, Eat & Don’t Waste

SAMIR RANJAN MAJUMDAR

The world produces enough food to feed every mouth on this planet. The per capita food availability in the world, as a whole, has risen from about 2358 kcal/person/day in 1964/66 to 2940 kcal/person/day in 2015 and likely to reach 3050 kcal/person/day in 2030. In developing countries, this figure has recorded an impressive jump from 2054 kcal/person/day to over 2850 kcal/person/day during the same period.
 Arable Land Area
Globally agricultural land area is approximately five billion hectares, or 38 percent of the global land surface of 13,003 million ha. About one-third of this is used as cropland, while the remaining two-thirds consist of meadows and pastures for grazing by livestock.
Global cropland area per capita decreased continuously over the period between 1961 and 2016: from about 0.45 hectare per capita in 1961 to 0.21 hectare per capita in 2016.
Averaged over the decade between 2007 and 2016, the largest share of agricultural land area was in Asia, accounting for 1.6 global hectares (gha) or 34 percent, followed by the America (1.2 gha, or 25 percent) and Africa (1.1 gha, 24 percent), with Europe and Oceania representing each about 9-10 percent of the total.
In terms of irrigation capacity, the region with the largest land area equipped for irrigation over the past decade was by far Asia, with 237 mega hectares (mha), or 70 percent of the world’s total, followed by the America (52 mha, 16 percent), Europe (26 mha, 8 percent), Africa (15 mha, 5 percent) and Oceania (3 mha, 1 percent).
In terms of the relative share of land equipped for irrigation over cropland, Asia also had the largest values (40 percent), followed by the America (13 percent), Europe (9 percent), Oceania (7 percent) and Africa (6 percent).
In terms of per capita availability, cropland area per capita between 2007-2016 was smallest in Asia (0.13 hectares per capita), followed by Africa (0.22 hectares per capita), the Americas and Europe (0.40 hectares per capita), and Oceania (1.21 hectares per capita).
 As per the Land Use Statistics 2016-17 mentioned in the Annual Report 2020-21 of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India, the total geographical area of India is 328.7 million hectares, of which 139.4 million hectares is the reported net sown area and 200.2 million hectares is the gross cropped area with a cropping intensity of 143.6%. The net area sowed works out to 42.4% of the total geographical area. The net irrigated area is 68.6 million hectares.
Food Grain Production & Consumption
World produces about 4 billion metric tonnes of food every year. In crop year 2016/2017, a total of approximately 2.2 billion metric tons of grain were produced worldwide.
 Food grain production including wheat, rice, pulses and cereals in India has been setting new records in recent years, having increased output from 208 million tons in 2005-2006 to 252.02 million tons in 2014 - 2015. As per 2nd Advance Estimates for 2021-22, total food grains production in the country is estimated at record 316.06 million tonnes which is higher by 5.32 million tonnes than the production of food grain during 2020-21.
The south Asian country was the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables after China in 2020.
Current world population is expected to reach 10.5 billion by 2050 which means 33% more human mouths will be needed to be fed. Food supplies need to be augmented by 60% in order to meet higher food demand in 2050.
Indian annual consumption remains far below at 225 – 230 million tonnes. An estimated 507 grams of food grain was available per person each day across India in fiscal year 2021. This figure has increased significantly since 2015. The consumption value of food grocery products in India amounted to around 25.8 trillion Indian rupees in fiscal year 2016. Food grains include rice, wheat, maize, other  cereals and a variety of pulses.
It is true that food production is critical and cannot be increased as and when we want due to so many factors including availability of limited arable land and water and increased variability due to increasing climate change. Moreover, growing water use and rising temperatures are expected to further increase water stress in many agricultural areas by 2025 which may have bad impact on food production.
Global Hunger
Despite having enough food to eat, about 811 million people of the 7.8 billion population of the world, or one in nine, go to bed hungry each night and another 2 billion are expected to join them by 2050. After steadily declining for a decade, global hunger is on the rise – climbing to around 9.9 percent in 2020, from 8.4 per cent a year earlier. Almost all the hungry people live in developing countries, and they are reportedly chronically undernourished, while this figure in developed countries is about 11 million.
According to reports of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), between 720 and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020. As per FAO, 657 million people (nearly 8 percent of the world population) are projected to be undernourished in 2030 — approximately 30 million more than if the pandemic had not occurred. 155 million people were acutely food insecure — an increase of nearly 20 million from the year before. Nearly 30 million people were on the verge of starvation, meaning they did not know where their next meal was coming from.
As per the current projections in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) report launched on October 14, 2021, it is estimated that the 47 countries in the world will be unable to achieve even low hunger by 2030, while 31 countries have shown serious levels of hunger, including India.
Each year, 15 million children die of hunger-related causes. This means that, every day, throughout the world, 40 000 children die.
About 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry in developing countries, with 23 million in Africa alone. As per FAO, fund equivalent to US $3.2 billion is required each year to reach all the 66 million hungry school-age children.
In 2020, globally, 149.2 million children under the age of 5 years of age were stunted (children significantly below standard height for their age), 45.4 million wasted (children significantly below standard height to weight ratios), and 38.9 million overweight. In 2013, approximately two thirds of all wasted children lived in Asia (mostly in South-Central Asia) and almost one third in Africa. 21.9% of children are developmentally stunted as a result of chronic malnutrition.
And in India, every second a child is affected by some form of malnutrition. The report said 35% of Indian children suffer from stunting due to lack of nutrition, 17% suffer from wasting, 33% are underweight and 2% are overweight.
Food Waste
Global Hunger Index 2021 report estimates that food waste from households, retail establishments and the food service industry totals 931 million tonnes each year. 61 per cent of it comes from households, 26 per cent from food service and 13 per cent from retail.
It is most distressing to note that globally one third of all food produced is wasted, costing the world economy about $750 billion (more than Rs 47 lakh crores) and the same ends up in landfills instead of on tables.
The value of food wastage in India is around Rs 92,000 crores per annum which is about 40% of the food produced in the country.
Nearly 570 million tonnes of this waste occurs at the household. The report also reveals that the global average of 74 kg per capita of food wasted each year is remarkably similar from lower-middle income to high-income countries.
In 2012, 7 million tonnes of food and drink were thrown away from homes in UK, which was enough to fill Wembley Stadium nine times over. However, 4.2 million tonnes of this was classed as 'avoidable', 1.2 million tonnes as 'possibly avoidable' and 1.6 million tonnes as 'unavoidable' like banana skins, tea waste, and poultry bones etc.
About 60 million metric tons of food is wasted a year in the US, valued at an estimated value of $162 billion. According to the TV host and comedian John Oliver, the quantity of food wasted is enough to fill up 730 football stadiums.
Estimates suggest that up to 40% of food produced in the US is never eaten. Every US citizen wastes food worth $370 per year while British households waste around $580 by throwing out food.
“In a world of seven billion people, set to grow to nine billion by 2050, wasting food makes no sense – economically, environmentally and ethically,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
As per the Food Waste Index Report 2021, a staggering 50 kg of food is thrown away per person every year in Indian homes.
The former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has stated that food worth $8.3 billion, or nearly 40% of the total value of annual food production, is wasted. According to a study, meat accounts for about 4% of food wastage and 20% of the costs in this country, while 70% of fruit and vegetable output is wasted, accounting for 40% of the total cost. Fruit and vegetable production - valued at Rs 13,300 crore - is wasted annually in India, according to data from the Central Institute of Post-Harvest Engineering and Technology (CIPHET).
One million tonne of onions vanish on their way from farms to markets. 2.2 million tonnes of tomatoes also vanish and overall 5 million eggs crack or go bad due to lack of proper cold storage facilities.  
An estimated 21 million tonnes of wheat – equivalent to Australia’s entire annual crop – rots or is eaten by insects, owing to inadequate storage and poor management by Food Corporation of India (FCI). FCI has admitted that food grains wastage of 79 million tonnes took place between 2009 and 2013.
In fact, according to the agriculture ministry, Rs. 50,000 crores worth of food produced is wasted every year in this country. In terms of overall food waste — agricultural produce, poultry and milk — India ranks seventh, with the Russian Federation at the top of the list.
According to a study, India will not have enough arable land, irrigation, or energy to provide enough nutritious food for India’s future 1.7 billion people if 35-40% of food output is left to rot or go waste.
Grim Scenario
As in 2021, India has population of 139 crores. With the population growth rate at 1.2%, India is predicted to have more than 1.53 billion population by 2030, similar to China’s and 1.7 billion by 2050, equivalent to nearly the combined population of China and the United States today. In India, which is hard pressed to feed its hungry people, its current food crisis could worsen significantly in future.
According to the 2021 Global Hunger Index, India’s ranking in global index is 101 (slipped from the 2020 index of 94) out of 116 countries. India is ranked behind most of its neighbouring countries, significantly worse than neighboring Sri Lanka (65th), Nepal (76th), Pakistan (92nd), and Bangladesh (76th).
Cause of Food Wastage
It is true that the issue of food wastage is much more rooted in the actual handling, storage, and transport of food grains and vegetables, before they even reach the consumer’s plate. But the undeniably stark truth is that wanton avoidable wastage of food by us has been contributing to steady rise in global hunger.
The Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata estimates that cold-storage facilities are available for only 10% of perishable food products, leaving around 370 million tons of perishable products at risk.
According to a report, the storage of food grains by farmers suffers wastage of 6% due to rodents, insects, and fungi. But the wastage is about 30% when the food grains are stored by FCI and state warehouse. Many of the FCI storage facilities are set up in open sky, making it easy for the grains to rot as we have seen in Punjab in recent past. However, lesser availability of food is not the only cause of prevalence of hunger or malnourishment in this country or elsewhere.
We Indians waste as much food as the whole of United Kingdom consumes. Weddings, canteens, hotels, social and family functions, households etc, in India, spew out so much food. Bigger is the wedding or party, more colossal is the wastage. Our street and garbage bins, landfills present a sad testimony to this fact.
Apart from having bad impact on environment due to emission of methane, a potent greenhouse gas produced by food decomposing on landfill and the social costs, the food wastage cripples a country’s economy. According to a study, if food is wasted, there is so much waste of water used in agriculture, manpower and electricity lost in food processing industries and even it contributes to deforestation. Taking all of these into consideration, the actual worth of money per year in India from food wastage is estimated at a whopping Rs. 58,000 crores, says a report.
Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said, “wastage of food products is one of the important factors that lead to inflation”.
According to a study, 25% of fresh water used to produce food is ultimately wasted, even as millions of people still don’t have access to drinking water. When one calculates the figures in cubic kilometers, this may surprisingly turn out to be a bit more than an average length of a river. It is estimated that more than 230 cubic kilometers of fresh water, enough to provide drinking water to 10 crores people a year, goes into producing food items that are ultimately wasted in this country. China is second with 140 cubic km and Pakistan third with 55 cubic km.
Approximately 45% of India’s land is degraded primarily due to deforestation, unsustainable agricultural practices, and excessive groundwater extraction to meet the food demand. 300 million barrels of oil are said to be used to produce food that is ultimately wasted.
Apart from taking concrete and positive steps to sustainably achieve the goals of food security and to reduce food losses in the post-harvest process at farm and retail levels, we all human beings must think before putting a morsel of food in the mouth that someone is suffering from starvation somewhere on this earth. After all, the colossal food wastage is the loss of edible food or cooked food solely due to human action or inaction such as throwing away wilted produce, not consuming available food before its expiry date or cooking more than required or overeating or lack of sense of saving food or lack of knowledge/appreciation of the magnitude of the problem of hunger and malnourishment haunting rural landscapes and also lurking in the alleyways of urban slums. Let us all, therefore, stop food wastage and work together in the ‘food for all’ mission so that hunger and malnourishment can be stamped out from this planet.
When many of us are about to go to bed tonight after finishing our supper, thousands and thousands of people including children across  the globe may have gone to bed without any food. Let us all think about them, plan our eating habits, stop overeating and not waste food right from now.
(Email: samirmajumdar_2010@yahoo.com)


Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi