India is growing more food but also wasting up to 67 million tonne of it every year, a government study shows. That’s more than the national output of countries such as Britain. And enough food for Bihar, one of India’s larger states, for a whole year.
The value of the food lost – Rs 92,000 crore -- is nearly two-thirds of what it costs the government to feed 600 million poor Indians with subsidised ration under the National Food Security programme.
Why does this matter? Lower supplies raise inflation and hurt the economy by reducing farmers’ returns on investments, said Amit Vyas, an economist with GB Pant Institute.
Fruits, vegetables and pulses -- the main drivers of food inflation -- are wasted the most, found the study by Ciphet, the farm ministry’s harvest-research body. Being perishables, they are prone to rotting. Gluts, pests, weather and lack of modern storage are the other reasons for wastage.
The study was done to update findings two years ago that revealed enormous levels of food being chucked along the supply chain.
The picture is more alarming for individual crops. One million tonne of onions vanish on their way from farms to markets, as do 2.2 million tonne tomatoes. Overall, 5 million eggs crack or go bad due to lack of cold storage.
The results provide fresh estimates of the value of wastage and also put a question mark on policies that focus on increasing output with little investment in technology to preserve food.
The big takeaway from Ciphet’s study is not just waste, but what can be done to stop it. The report recommends on-farm training and cold-storage investments. Some of the technology is homegrown and cheaply available, but underutilised, it states.
After harvest, produce goes through a series of operations, from farm to market. “Each operation and handling stage results in some losses. Thus a huge quantity of agricultural production is reduced from the food chain,” the study says.
A waste-side storyA study covering 120 districts in 14 agriculture zones finds tonnes of foods perishing. Why?
- Improper handling
- Lack on-farm weather-proof storage
- Lack of refrigeration at supplier-end
- Standardise food-sorting practices
- Invest in more storage
- Mechanise farm operations