The world loses about $400 billion of food before it even gets delivered to stores, according to the United Nations. Some 14% of all food produced is lost annually, with central and southern Asia, North America and Europe accounting for the biggest shares, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a report, citing the latest data as of 2016.
Food wastage is drawing increased scrutiny because more than 820 million people are estimated to go hungry each day, and because of the contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
Consumers also squander huge amounts. As much as 37% of animal products and potentially a fifth of fruit and vegetables may be wasted after being purchased, according to the FAO. Rich nations have higher levels of waste due to limited shelf life or poor consumer planning, while poorer countries typically grapple with climate and infrastructure issues.
Boosting farm productivity through research and development has been found to be more cost-effective than curbing post-harvest losses, the FAO said. Better cold storage and infrastructure would help reduce losses, but more detailed data on the supply chain is needed to tackle the problem, it said.