Bangkok, Thailand -- Denouncing the huge amount of food that goes to waste, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, Hiroyuki Konuma, announced a new initiative aimed at stopping post-harvest food losses and market-to-consumer food waste.
'The Save Food Asia-Pacific Campaign seeks to raise awareness about the high levels of food losses - particularly post-harvest losses - and the growing problem of food waste in the region,' Konuma said.
'FAO estimates that if the food wasted or lost globally could be reduced by just one quarter, this would be sufficient to feed the 870 million people suffering from chronic hunger in the world,' said Konuma.
The announcement came as Konuma opened the two-day High-Level Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Food Losses and Food Waste in Asia and the Pacific Region in collaboration with the Asian Institute of Technology and other partners.
More than 130 participants from 20 countries attended the Consultation, including four Agriculture Ministers. The Consultation will study ways to reduce food loss and waste and is expected to issue a communiqué outlining actions that can save food from farm to table.
According to Konuma, 'The world produces more or less sufficient food to meet the demand of its current population of 7 billion. However, 12.5 percent of the global population, or 868 million people, equivalent to one in eight people, go hungry every day. In 2012, the Asia-Pacific region was home to 536 million hungry people, or 62 percent of the world's undernourished.'
The Asia-Pacific region benefitted from rapid economic growth in the first decade of the 21st century. But, successful economic growth did not alleviate hunger and poverty, because the benefits of economic growth were unevenly distributed, resulting in a widening income gap in many countries in the region.
According to statistics from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, an estimated 653 million people across the region, lived below the national poverty line in 2010.
Inefficient food systems
Yukol Limlamthong, Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, speaking at the Consultation's opening session, said: 'Within the context of Asia and the Pacific Region, more effort is needed to raise global awareness of the critical issue of food losses and particularly post-harvest losses as well as food waste, which is a is increasing nowadays.'
Limlamthoung added: 'The Government of Thailand is deeply committed to working with FAO and with other partners and stakeholders in the region to promote the security of the region and also of the world.'
Indian geneticist M. S. Swaminathan, who played a leading role in India's Green Revolution, said in his keynote address on reducing post-harvest losses for food security: 'Food waste is also a waste of natural resources like land and water. To a great extent, food losses and waste are symbolic of the inefficiencies of food systems' and this explains 'why food losses and waste are becoming so central to discussions on both food security and sustainable development.'
Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai, Interim President and Professor at the Asian Institute of Technology, said in his remarks: 'The issue of food loss and waste is important to our agenda at AIT.' It is cross-cutting and multi-disciplinary and is being scientifically targeted by several fields of study at AIT including the recently opened Asian Center of Innovation for Sustainable Agriculture Intensification (ACISAI).
The Save Food Campaign Asia-Pacific will be an on-going advocacy initiative that will appeal to consumers to have more respect for food and to stop wasting this precious commodity.