Agriculture and Environment
Food Loss: Challenge to Sustainable Landscape
Rabu 5 September 2018

Not all food can get to the plate. Some are damaged or spoiled before they reach the consumers. Damage to food that happens after harvest is called food loss. Food loss can happen during post harvest handling, distribution, processing, and also consumption.


The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicated that accurate estimate on the amount of food loss is not available since there is no standard way of measuring the level of food loss. However, during the meeting of the ASEAN countries in last February in Bogor that discussed reducing harvest loss in agriculture, it was mentioned that at the global level 54% of total loss occurred during post harvest and storage stages. On the same occasion, the Deputy for the Food and Agriculture Coordination Division of the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs, Musdhalifah Machmud, indicated that the level of post-harvest food loss at the national level is still above 20% on average.


Impact of food loss

Although accurate number of food loss is not available, the fact that some food is lost has indicated that some energy, land, and other resources have been lost and created waste. One research has demonstrated that 24% of the world’s energy has been wasted to produce food that is never consumed by humans.


Without proper management, piling food and agricultural waste can contribute to aggravating global climate change. Spoilage or decomposition that occurs to piles of organic matters can produce methane, a type of gas that traps more heat than carbon dioxide. Accordingly, methane is on the alert list as a gas with major influence on global warming.


The high rate of food loss is indeed putting more burdens to agriculture to provide food. If for instance one hectare of land is capable of producing 2 tons of soybeans, with the rate of food loss of 20% during post-harvest and storage stages, only around 1.6 tons are left to meet community’s need for food.


Food loss also affects farmers’ income. The loss of food means farmers would only get a portion of the income to substitute all incurred cost of seeds, fertilisers and work capital.

 Proper post-harvest handling reduces the rate of food loss

Every commodity has its own different characteristics of ingredients; hence the different causes and risks of food loss.  FAO data in 2012 indicated that tubers are one type of commodity that often suffers 45% of food loss. In tubers group, food loss occurs at post-harvest stage. In addition to tubers, legumes also suffer high rate of food loss throughout the post-harvest stage.


Simple but proper post-harvest handling can reduce damage to agricultural products and food looses. On the other hand, increased demand for food and limited resources means more efficient post-harvest handling is essential. Farmers can reduce food losses by applying more efficient management and handling practices.


For rice commodity, for instance, traditional ways of milling rice that include pounding, beating or stomping can potentially cause losses of between 4 to 12 percents. Meanwhile the use of milling machine and equipment can reduce food losses by up to 1%. However, farmers alone cannot reduce food losses. Other actors should provide their support by building the capacity and skills of farmers in post-harvest handling practices; providing more efficient technologies, equipments and machines; developing market, and other approaches.