French lawyer, politician and gastronome, Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said: “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Across cultures and countries, food is at the centre of existence, and food wastage seen as being irreverent towards the millions devoted to producing it and the billions who don’t have regular and easy access to it.
While India has made tremendous strides in food security, much more needs to be done to curtail food wastage. According to the United Nations Development Programme, 40 per cent of the food produced in India goes waste. Wasted food also represents a waste of resources, such as land, water, energy, and other factors used in its production even as it adds to green gas emissions. Food wastage occurs at every stage: food production, transportation viz. supply chains and consumption.
India is presently ranked 102nd among 117 economies in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2019. Hunger could be tackled by avoiding wastage and using technology and innovative business models, especially in supply chain management to reduce transit time. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) recommends increasing supply chain efficiencies that will help reduce wastage, especially of fruits and vegetable. The use of refrigerated containers, for example, has added a new dimension to the transportation of perishable goods. The integrated cold chain project in India is expected to bear rich dividends.
The Indian government has already taken several policy initiatives and the Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAMPADA Yojana encompasses the creation of –
The Indian Food Sharing Alliance (IFSA), an initiative of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), is also geared to solve India’s food waste and hunger crisis by integrating various partner organisations, food recovery agencies, and NGOs.
The CII Jubilant Bhartia Food and Agriculture Centre of Excellence (CII-FACE) is also dedicatedly working towards the integrated development of India’s food and agriculture sector through skill development, and other ways for increasing the overall efficiency and income of the agriculture sector.
CII has been recommending various measures for the food processing industry such as creating seamless post-harvest infrastructure to address supply chain inefficiencies and framing model guidelines to make the statutory requirements of setting up cold chain infrastructure uniform across all States instead of acquiring multiple licenses and authorities.
While these measures are expected to help, India will also need to take a cue from global practices that are both unorthodox and innovative to tackle the food wastage problem.
Advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning, nanotechnology, data monitoring, storage, and packaging solutions will aid in alleviating this issue and be a game-changer in the prevention of food wastage. The customers could also be incentivised to purchase perishable products approaching their expiry dates. Food wastage can also be controlled through social campaigns similar to ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’ to sensitise people about this avoidable occurrence.
India has a successful Green Revolution and Operation Flood behind it and can strengthen its food processing sector to ensure that food wastage is curtailed to ensure that no citizen goes hungry.