JOURNAL OF NATURAL RESOURCES ›› 2020, Vol. 35 ›› Issue (5): 1030-1042.doi: 10.31497/zrzyxb.20200502

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The progress and prospects of research on food loss and waste

LUO Yi, LI Xuan-fu, HUANG Dong, WU La-ping   

  1. College of Economics and Management, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100083, China
  • Received:2019-02-20 Online:2020-05-28 Published:2020-05-28

Abstract: Concerns about food insecurity have grown in China due to growing population and food consumption structure improvement. The research and development practitioner has begun to focus on food loss and waste, often referred to as post-harvest losses (PHL), in China. PHL reduction has been identified as a key component to complement efforts to address food security challenges and increase farmers' incomes, especially for the rural poor. This article reviews the current state of the literature on PHL mitigation. First, we identify explicitly the varied objectives underlying efforts to reduce PHL levels. There are four main objectives of reducing post-harvest loss: (1) Improve food security and protect social stability. Reducing food loss increases the quantity of food, which can reduce the need to supplement availability through transfer programs (at household level) or via commercial imports or food aid donations. (2) Reduce unnecessary resource use and protect the environment. These resources come in the form of on-farm inputs, including water, chemical fertilizer, agrochemicals, labor, and land. (3) Improve food safety. Sometimes spoilage or contamination is not perceptible to the human senses and goes undetected, leading to adverse health effects when food is consumed. These food safety concerns have major disease and global health implications. (4) Increase profits for food value chain actors. The private sector, including smallholder farmers, plays a crucial role in making food available to consumers. Second, we summarize the estimated magnitudes of losses, evaluate the methodologies used to generate those estimates. Losses and waste can be measured in quantity and quality terms, and the commonly used loss estimation methods are case study, experimental method and questionnaire survey. So it is difficult to compare values due to differences in methods, especially the methodologies employed are often unsatisfactory. Third, we synthesize and critique the impact evaluation literature around on-farm and off-farm interventions expected to deliver PHL reduction. They include: (1) Improved varietals. Because of the compounding effects of pests and deterioration accumulated before harvest, interventions that aim to reduce PHL while crops are still in the field is arguably more effective than deploying strategies that only start after harvest. (2) Education on best practices in harvest and post-harvest handling. Interventions also occur around education for best practices in harvest and post-harvest handling, generally in the form of extension messaging. (3) Chemical sprays in storage. Many farmers use some form of chemical or natural spray during home-based storage as a means of keeping pests and insects away from food, but it may lead to negative environment or health effects. (4) Improved storage of grains through advanced technologies. The most widespread intervention strategy is the use of improved storage devices such as metal silos. (5) Integrated pest management in storage. The integrated pest management paradigm is generally discussed with respect to the prevalence of pests pre-harvest, but IPM can also be useful during storage. (6) Other methods include improving infrastructures and developing rural finance. Finally, we conclude with a summary of main points.

Key words: food loss, review, food security, food safety