The role of the private sector to reduce food losses

Food Losses and Waste: The problem, causes and
potential solutions: What the private sector can do

Losses and waste occur throughout the food system from primary production of agricultural commodities and fish catch to food intake. These losses and waste may be caused by the practice and behavior of farmers2, consumers, traders, processors and others in the food system or by existing socio-economic environments or frameworks within which the behavior takes place. Food losses and waste cause large economic losses to societies and individual agents in the food system.

They place pressures on the ecology and amplify the gap between prices received by farmers and those paid by consumers. Thus, efforts to reduce losses and waste can be an effective way to achieve the triple goal of 1) assuring higher prices and incomes to farmers3, traders and other agents in the supply chain, 2) reducing consumer prices and food expenditures and 3) reducing negative impact on the environment. This, in turn, may enhance the access to food by low-income rural and urban households and thus improve sustainable household food security and nutrition. This paper recommends six areas of action for the private sector to reduce food losses and waste.

To access the entire paper, please click here.

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Food Security Seminar

A Food Security Seminar scheduled in Copenhagen, Denmark, will be held on March 16, 2015.

Achieving sustainable food security and nutrition:
A debate about livestock, fish, water and food losses

Festauditoriet (A1-01.01), Bülowsvej 17,
1870 Frederiksberg Campus

University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark

Monday, 16 March 2015, 9.00-17.00

Scope: Food security and good nutrition are influenced by a range of issues, with a wide range of stakeholders concerned. To address food insecurity requires an integrated approach. It requires interventions and strong policies from local to global levels. This international seminar will discuss, in four sessions, four important issues related to sustainable food security and nutrition, inscribed on the policy agenda of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS), and on the scientific agenda of the High Level of Experts on Food Security (HLPE), with Danish, Scandinavian and global perspectives: The role of livestock in achieving sustainable food security and nutrition; sustainable fishery and aquaculture as contributors to food security and nutrition; the management of water for food production and health; and reducing food losses and wastes for improving food security. Each session will consist of two presentations, of which one will report on HLPE work on the issue, followed by a panel discussion and discussions/Q&A with the audience.

For further information, please see flyer available here.

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Focusing on Fish: A Report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition

Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Chair of the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) for the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, calls for the role and importance of fish to be included within food and nutrition security agendas following the launch of the HLPE report last month on Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture for Food Security and Nutrition.   (Click here for article by the Institute of Development Studies.)

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Nutrition-Enhancing Policies for Food and Agricultural Systems

Per Pinstrup-Andersen delivers the first keynote lecture at the 4th Annual LCIRAH Research Conference “Agri-Food Policy and Governance for Nutrition and Health” on June 3, 2014, Birkbeck College, London.

Click Here for PPT

Click Here for Video Presentation

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Political Economy of Food Price Policy

Political Economy of Food Price Policy

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Cuba’s Food-Rationing System and Alternatives

A large number of case studies covering a variety of food policy issues in many different countries are available on the following web site: http://cip.cornell.edu/gfs.  Each of the case studies focuses on an important policy issue in a particular country or region.  In addition to a description of the policy problem, each case identifies the key policy issues, stakeholder groups and suggests a set of potential policy solutions.  The cases are developed for use in teaching and for general information for interested individuals.

Cuba’s Food-Rationing System and Alternatives by Andrea Carter, Case Study #4-6 of the Program “Food Policy for Developing Countries:  The Role of Government in the Global Food System.” (Full case study available here.)

Executive Summary

The global financial crisis of recent years has prompted a review of Cuba’s economy—one of the most enduring aspects of Cuban society. Led by reform-minded President Raúl Castro, Cuba is embarking on some of the most sweeping social and economic transformations enacted since the Revolution began in 1959.

Since the announced layoff of 500,000 state workers in 2010, the government has taken a number of steps to reduce local subsidies and introduce new taxes in order to diminish the fiscal deficit. Though the economy will continue to be based on central planning, the country is privatizing and liberalizing key economic sectors. These reforms are being implemented slowly and cautiously, but they are expected to significantly affect the social, economic, and political landscape of the Caribbean nation (Perales 2011).

The economic future of the island took center stage at the last congressional meeting of the Cuban Communist Party held in April 2011 (Perales 2011). Among the proposed reforms was the discontinuation of the libreta de abastecimiento or family ration book. Implemented in 1962, the ration book provides Cuba’s 11.2 million citizens the right to purchase a basket of basic foodstuffs at subsidized prices. The libreta was introduced in response to production shortages occasioned by the postrevolutionary agrarian reforms and increased food import costs attributable to the U.S. embargo (Alvarez 2004). Though the availability and allotment of rationed goods has decreased over the years, much of the population remains highly dependent on the libreta system, and it has long been a pillar Cuba’s socialist economy.

The proposed discontinuation comes at a time of great uncertainty regarding the future of Cuba’s hallmark social welfare programs. As the government seeks to scale back its near-total dominance of the economy, President Castro has given notice that the cradle-to-grave entitlements that are keystones of Cuban socialism—including free education, free health care, and subsidized electricity—can no longer be supported given current levels of productivity (Castro Ruz 2010).

In light of public dependence on subsidized foodstuffs, discontinuation of the libreta was overruled by the members of the Communist Party’s congressional congress. Nonetheless, its proposed termination has called into question the government’s ability to maintain the principals of social equity established by the revolutionary government.

Cuba’s superior health indicators—highly ranked both regionally and globally—are attributed to the country’s universal primary healthcare services. Having reduced national undernutrition levels to less than 5 percent among the total population, the current regime nonetheless recognizes that it can no longer support the substantial annual cost of the rationing system, estimated at US$1 billion in 2011. On the cusp of economic transition, the question of whether to discontinue the libreta has become a heated policy debate (ONEI 2012; Messina 2012).

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Can Agriculture Meet Future Nutrition Challenges?

Can Agriculture Meet Future Nutrition Challenges? Special Debate Section. European Journal of Development Research published online November 22, 2012. (Paper available here.)

According to FAO’s projections, global food demand will increase by about 70 per cent during the next 40 years. That corresponds to about 1.4 per cent accumulated annual growth. Such growth is achievable and, although international food prices are likely to continue to be volatile, I do not believe the world will experience an increasing trend in real food prices in the foreseeable future. As further discussed below, the world is not running out of productive capacity. In fact, with appropriate policies, future food demand can be met at current real prices and without doing damage to natural resources. Unfortunately, that does not mean that nutrition needs will be met.

Producing enough food to meet demand at reasonable prices is necessary but not sufficient to achieve good nutrition. Neither is it sufficient to achieve food security. Food security at the household and individual level depends on access to food. Food insecurity frequently exists in situations where plenty of food is available but not accessible to some households and individuals. However, even if household food security is achieved, malnutrition may flourish because the intra-household distribution does not correspond to individual needs or because non-food factors that are important for nutrition such as unclean water, poor sanitation and hygiene and inappropriate care are the most binding constraints to good nutrition.

The kind of food to which households and individuals have access – and not just the amount – is important for nutrition. Diet diversity is critically important for meeting nutrient needs. The degree of food security is often measured as the extent to which dietary energy requirements (measured in calories) are met. FAO’s estimates of the number of undernourished people are a case in point. Many more suffer from nutrient deficiencies and/or overweight and obesity. Therefore, the answer to the question posed in the title of this article depends on whether everybody will have access to the energy and nutrients needed, that is, a diversified diet, whether people overeat and whether the utilization of the food is hampered by non-food factors.

But what is the proper role for agriculture? One could argue (and many do) that agriculture can only be held accountable for producing enough food to meet demand and that agriculture cannot be blamed for poverty, overeating, poor diets, unclean drinking water and poor child care. If this argument is accepted, then the relevant title of the article would be ‘Can agriculture meet future food demand?’ My answer to that is a straightforward yes. However, I will argue below that human nutrition is affected by agriculture through several pathways of which producing the amount of food demanded is but one, although an important one.

The rest of the article is presented in three sections. My assessment of the future food situation and why I think that real food prices are not on an upward long-term trend is discussed first; then follows a brief account of the nature of the nutrition challenges, and the article concludes with a set of policy recommendations to make agriculture more nutrition sensitive.

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Health Inequality between Ethnic Minority and Han Populations in China

Health Inequality between Ethnic Minority and Han Populations in China by Y. Ouygang and P. Pinstrup-Andersen, World Development, 40(7): 1452-1468. (Full paper here.)

Since China abandoned the socialist planned economy and switched to a market-oriented economy in 1978, the international community has become increasingly familiar with this country and its people. Consequently, abundant empirical studies have been conducted to understand China’s economic development and the well-being of the Chinese people.

Most of these studies, however, have focused only on the Han, the dominant ethnic group in China, which accounts for about 91.6% of the country’s total population. In contrast, there exist surprisingly few English-language empirical studies on the remaining 8.4%, representing 114 million individuals (Sixth National Population Census of 2010 (NBS communiqué on 2010 population census (No. 1)) who belong to 55 ethnic minority tribes. These minority tribes are different from the Han in many important aspects, including culture and religion, language and education, geographic location and natural endowments, means of sustenance, diet, and health and nutrition.

The central government in China has always stressed that all minority territories are “inalienable parts of China” and that “Han chauvinism” in any form will be firmly opposed (Article 4 of the 1982 State Constitution of China). The central government has also enacted a series of policies in favor of its ethnic minority population, spanning a broad spectrum of aspects from education to family planning. In addition, many local governments have designed programs and undertaken measures to benefit local ethnic minority communities. In recent years, an increasing number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), both domestic and international, have also initiated efforts to help improve the well-being of ethnic minority Chinese.

It is thus natural to ask: How do minority Chinese fare compared with Han Chinese? Using health as a proxy measure of human welfare, we examine whether minorities have become better off than the Han during the 17 years from 1989 to 2006, and if not, what could contribute to their welfare disadvantage.

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Heavy Agricultural Workloads and Low Crop Diversity are Strong Barriers to Improving Child Feeding Practices in the Bolivian Andes

Heavy agricultural workloads and low crop diversity are strong barriers to improving child feeding practices in the Bolivian Andes by A.D. Jones, Y.C. Agudo, L. Galway, J. Bentley, and P. Pinstrup-Andersen, Social Science & Medicine 2012;75(9):1673-1684. (Paper available here.)

Most nutrition initiatives to date aimed at improving infant and young child feeding (IYCF) have emphasized addressing knowledge gaps through behavior change messaging with less focus on addressing the underlying environmental barriers that may shape these behaviors. This research integrates an analysis of longitudinal dietary data with qualitative data on barriers to improved child feeding to identify the nature and extent of the barriers caregivers face to improving IYCF practices in a farming region of the Bolivian Andes, and to determine the relative influence of these barriers on caregivers’ abilities to improve IYCF practices. Sixty-nine caregivers were selected from a sample of 331 households that participated in a longitudinal survey assessing changes in IYCF practices among caregivers with children aged 0-36 months from March 2009 to March 2010. Forty-nine barriers within 12 categories of barriers were identified through semi-structured interviews with the 69 caregivers. The most frequently reported barriers were those related to women’s time dedicated to agricultural labor, the limited diversity of household agricultural production, and lack of support for child feeding from spouses and mothers-in-law. In multivariate analyses controlling for several variables that could potentially influence IYCF practices, these barriers were negatively associated with changes to the diversity of child diets, child dietary energy intake, and child meal frequency. While knowledge gaps and individual-level influences affected IYCF practices, physical and social caregiving environments in this region of Bolivia were even more important. Behavior change communication alone will likely not address the social and environmental barriers to improved child feeding that often prevent translation of improved knowledge into action. Particularly in rural regions, agriculture may strongly influence child feeding, not only indirectly through household food security, but also directly by affecting women’s caregiving capacity.

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Contemporary Food Policy Challenges and Opportunities: A Political Economy Perspective

Presented at the 56th AARES Annual Conference, Fremantle, Western Australia, February7-10, 2012. (Full paper here.)

The global food system and related government policies are in disarray. In response to increasing food prices and greater food price volatility, national governments are pursuing a variety of policies to protect population groups of greatest importance for maintaining government legitimacy. Some of these policies are further amplifying price fluctuations while others are attempting to prohibit price signals from reaching consumers, traders and producers. Extreme weather events, irrational expectations by speculators, sensationalism by the news media, oil price fluctuations and the pursuit of self-interests by international organizations, NGOs and the private sector, have created a sense of uncertainty and heightened political risks among many governments. Together with the so-called “food riots,” which were driven by grievances of various kinds including but not limited to food price fluctuations, these perceived political risks have pushed governments of many developing country governments towards crisis management, short-term political interventions and bandage solutions. This paper discusses these interventions and suggests a set of policy challenges of a longer-term nature as well as related policies to achieve sustainable food security for all in the foreseeable future. The paper will argue that food price volatility will continue to be with us, but that real food prices need not increase. It will further show that the main bottlenecks in expanding food production in most low-income developing countries are found outside the farm and that government intervention in the food system should focus on improvements in rural infrastructure, domestic markets and policies to facilitate efficiency and effectiveness in post-harvest value chains and input sectors. Full costing of environmental damage caused by the food system is suggested to be implemented to help assure sustainability

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