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Editorial Notes

Editorial Notes 31st October 2016

What is Food loss? What is food waste? What are the reasons? What are its impacts? Equal Pay for Equal Work.
By IT's Editorial Notes Team
October 31, 2016


GS (M) Paper-3: “Food security”
GS (M) Paper-3: “Food processing and related industries in India.”


Curbing food wastage in a hungry world



World Food Day was observed on October 16 with the message of “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too”.

What is Food loss?

  • Food loss is “decrease in quantity or quality of food” reflected in nutritional value, economic value or food safety of all food produced for human consumption but not eaten by humans.


What is food waste?

  • Food waste is part of food loss and refers to discarding or alternative (non-food) use of safe and nutritious food for human consumption all along food supply chains.


What are the reasons?

  • The maximum amount of food waste is due to problems in harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure or market / price mechanisms.
  • Consumption pattern is another important reason. It includes stocking too much food, over-preparing or not cooking it properly, leaving food on dishes after meals or not willing to consume leftovers etc.
  • There are also too stringent institutional and legal frameworks that contribute to the loss.
  • Other reasons include rigid or misunderstood date marking rules, improper storage, buying or cooking practices.
  • Cosmetic standards also contribute to the annual amount of food waste. i.e if fruits or vegetables are misshapen or superficially bruised, they are often not put on the shelf.

What are its impacts?

  • Hunger – According to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), every year around 1.7 billion tonnes, or almost one third of food produced for human consumption is spoiled or squandered before it is consumed.
  • It is an excess in an age where one-ninth of the global population, face hunger.
  • India ranks lowly at 97 among 118 countries according to the 2016 Global Hunger Index and we have 48 million or two in five children below the age of five affected by stunting.
  • Loss of resource – Food wastage not only means wastage of food but also represents a waste of the labour, water, energy, land and other inputs that went into producing that food.
  • Wasting a kilogram of wheat and rice would mean wasting 1,500 and 3,500 litres of water respectively that goes into their production.
  • This means that globally, almost 250km3 of water and 1.4 billion hectares of land are devoted to producing food that is lost or wasted.
  • Climate change – food scraps constitute around 20% of the waste dumped in landfills, where it ends up rotting and producing methane, a greenhouse gas. Food loss and waste generates about 8 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The associated economic, environmental and social costs of this loss are around $1 trillion, $700 billion and $900 billion per year respectively.
  • Economic loss – In India, the value of food wastage (harvest and post-harvest losses of major agricultural produce) is estimated at around ₹ 92,000 crore per annum at 2014 wholesale prices. In the food value chain, 24 per cent of global food loss and waste occurs at the production stage, 24 per cent during handling and storage, and 35 per cent at consumption.
  • These three stages taken together account for more than 80 per cent of global food loss and waste.

Measures taken across the globe:

  • In US, the PATH Act of 2015 made permanent an enhanced tax deduction for donating food, increasing business incentives to involve in food recovery.
  • Italy adopted a law that earmarked approximately $10 million to reduce one million tonnes of wasted food a year by offering incentives to businesses who donate food to charities, including $1.8 million annually to fund innovative food waste reduction projects, as well as $2.5 million to buy food for the poor.
  • Food waste prevention is an integral part of the Europe’s new package to stimulate its transition towards a circular economy, which will boost competitiveness, foster sustainable growth and generate new jobs.

Solution for India:

Small but concentrated efforts against food waste are the need of the hour. Technology would be central to addressing food waste. The following solutions can be envisaged for solving India’s food waste problem.

Solutions for Preventing food loss:

  • Promotion of resource efficient and regenerative agricultural practices.
  • Improved access to low-cost handling and storage technologies.
  • Commissioning of Mega Food Parks to increase the processing of perishables. Because better processing and recycling can feed 11 per cent of the world’s population.
  • Real time wireless sensors can monitor the storage conditions of perishable food as it is transported, and transmit this data to clients.
  • Using active intelligent packaging for perishables
  • Expansion of secondary markets for items with cosmetic damage
  • Tray-less dining & encouraging sale of off-grade produce.

Recovery solutions:

  • Redistribution – Approximately, a fifth of food at social events goes waste. Some organisations collect excess food from these parties and distribute it in slum areas. Mobile apps are being developed for crowdsourcing data on hunger spots and which take requests for donation of excess food. They should be encouraged by providing real time data.
  • Recycling solution to manage food waste should include compost/energy/biogas production or redistribution and diversion as animal feed. Other uses can include organic manure and starch for household consumption.
  • Tapping businesses that buy unwanted food/produce directly from distributor/manufacturer for discounted retail sale.
  • Some businesses are involved in value added processing, making healthy fruit snacks from surplus produce or donated food. They should be promoted.
  • Setting up a network of food waste innovation incubators with dedicated support would help nurture innovations, strategy and programme development in reducing food loss and waste.
  • Segregation of waste would be instrumental in accurately evaluating the impact of waste in key areas such as greenhouse gas and resource recovery.
  • Collaboration and coordination of worldwide initiatives on food loss and waste reduction.
  • Awareness raising on the impact of, and solutions for, food loss and waste.
  • Implementing the right strategies will help halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels, and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.


  • But the ultimate success will depend on our readiness to change attitudes of stakeholders along the value chain.
  • Transforming the food system in India will help to transform our future, as food waste includes wastage of natural capital.
[Ref: Business Line]


GS (M) Paper-1: “Social empowerment”


Supreme Court orders equal pay for equal work



  • The Supreme Court’s ruled that temporary employees are entitled to regular pay scale as the permanent employees.
  • The ruling was passed in cross appeals by the Punjab government and temporary workers.

What was the ruling?

  • It says the principle of equal pay for equal work constitutes a clear and unambiguous right and is vested in every employee, whether engaged on a regular or a temporary basis.
  • The specific ruling is for those employed by the government.
  • The court also fully recognises that some workers could be permanent and others, temporary.
  • The ruling has laid down many parameters to decide whether temporary hands are doing the same work as the regular employees before equal pay can be claimed. The onus of proof is on the worker who claims equal pay.

Significance of the ruling:

  • It reaffirms the concept of the right to equality enshrined in our Constitution.
  • Pay parity will lead to rise in wage bill of a company. But one firm’s wage bill represents purchasing power for the rest of the economy. The economy will get a boost when workers are better paid. They will boost demand for industry’s produce and invest in their children’s education.
  • This sets the norm for the private sector as well.
  • Once equal pay kicks in, the only reason employers have to keep some workers temporary and disgruntled is the need for flexibility, reducing the plight of temporary workers.
  • Also if workers are enabled to upgrade their skills on a regular basis, such flexible employment terms would benefit them as well.
  • The government must deploy staff with the flexibility they need. A reform in labour laws to readjust the size of the workforce at short notice, hire new skills, scale up or down, depending on way demand moves, will make India competitive.
[Ref: Economic Times]


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