One Billion Tons of Food

That’s how much the FAO estimates is lost per year due to “waste” and “losses”

  • Industrialized and developing countries dissipate roughly the same quantities of food — respectively 670 and 630 million tonnes.
  • Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
  • Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.
  • The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).

I wondered which is easier, to try and improve crop yields through better breeding and agronomic practices, or technology & practices to reduce post harvest lossses?

If you take a look at the report (I promise, it isn’t too long or boring), the answer to this question really depends on what crop you are considering.  Furthermore, they don’t try to estimate crop losses due to disease etc that would be affected by better breeding etc. What they call “agriculture” is actually harvesting and “postharvest” is mostly storage.  Looks like we’ve done a great job of minimizing losses in the field for cereal crops:

FAO food report Fig 3 cereal grain losses

But for others, like roots and tubers, it looks like there is as much, if not more room for improvement in the field as postharvest.  I may be missing some nuances in making sweeping conclusions like this.  Maybe roots and tubers always inherently have higher loss rates or are technically harder to harvest?  Even more so in Industrialized Asia?

FAO food loss report figure 4 roots tubers

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