A recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) revealed that S$400 billion worth of food is lost before it gets to its storage destination. The biggest share of loss happens in southern Asia, North America and Europe.
Analysts say that better cold storage and infrastructure could help reduce losses, however, more comprehensive data on the supply chain is what is really necessary so that the problem can be tackled.
Singapore loses S$2.54 billion worth of farm-to-market food
Food loss, which refers to food that is lost in transit in the supply chain between producer and the market, contributes to an estimated S$2.54 billion from farm to market within Singapore, the Singapore Environment Council revealed in a study with Deloitte.
Food waste is one of the top five biggest waste streams being generated in the city. An estimated 393,000 tonnes of food loss occurs during upstream and midstream from imported foods and local farms, even before reaching retail outlets and consumers.
Out of these, around 342,000 tonnes of food loss occurs in Singapore. As Singapore imports most of its food requirements, more than 144,000 tonnes is lost when imported food lands in Singapore.
For locally produced food within Singapore, more than 5,000 tonnes of food is lost during production, and close to 2,000 tonnes during post-harvest handling and storage. During the processing and packaging of imported and locally produced food items, there is a food loss of close to 75,000 tonnes, and over 116,000 tonnes during distribution.
Of the 342,000 tonnes of food loss incurred within Singapore, vegetables and fruits top the list, making up about 167,000 tonnes or 49% while eggs accounted for the lowest share at about 5,500 tonnes or 1.6%.
Singapore Environment Council chairman Isabella Huang-Loh commented, “In Singapore, food waste is largely monitored at the post-consumer or downstream stage, with little awareness of the losses occurring at the upstream and midstream stages. When taken together – especially given the fact that Singapore imports more than 90% of its food needs – the bigger picture points to an urgent need to address food loss and food waste now.”
Drivers of food loss
Some of the key drivers of food loss identified in the study are poor disease and pest management, over the importation of food items, fragmented cold chain management, and inadequate infrastructure.
Tonnes of food thrown away by Singaporean households
Research indicated that more than 26,000 tonnes of unconsumed food is thrown away from households annually due to improper storage, purchasing patterns, and food handling habits.
Singapore households throw away an estimated S$6.57 million worth of food per week. This would amount to about S$258 per household per year from unconsumed food or about S$342 million for all households in Singapore annually.
World’s food wastage and environment degradation
Food wastage is drawing increased scrutiny because it is a contributing factor to greenhouse gas emissions and more than 820 million people are estimated to go hungry each day. World leaders have made commitments to try to cut half global food waste at retail and consumer levels by 2030 and reduce food production losses. Simultaneously, companies are also making attempts to improve efficiency in the food industry.
“Losing food implies unnecessary pressure on the environment and the natural resources that have been used to produce it in the first place,” Qu Dongyu, director general of the Rome-based FAO, said in the report. “It essentially means that land and water resources have been wasted, pollution created and greenhouse gases emitted to no purpose.”