According to FAO calculations, in LA, 15% of food is lost during the production and consumption stages, which is equivalent to 80 million tons. In the midst of a socioeconomic context in which millions of children suffer from chronic malnutrition, in Latin America, however, 15% of the food produced is lost of food every year, which is equivalent to about 80 million tons. From a nutritional point of view, this means that a quarter of the energy components (or 450 kilocalories) that a person needs daily for life is wasted.
Despite the harsh figure, the truth is that the region is the one that wastes or loses the least amount of food in the world. In developed countries, this share can reach more than a third of the total food production. The causes of this disorder vary by country. Those with high incomes, for example, throw away most of their food during the consumption phase.
Meanwhile, in Latin America losing It occurs equally in the production and consumption phases: each represents 28% of total losses, according to calculations by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
One of the aspects that emphasizes food loss is the product’s shelf life, especially in the family consumption phase. The consumer tends to think that it is not safe to eat a food after this period, despite the experts’ warnings to the contrary.
Referring to production, waste is mainly due to inefficient or premature harvesting methods and excessive rain or dry conditions, a fact that often occurs in Brazil or Argentina, for example. The rest of the food losses in the region are distributed in the stages of storage (22% of the total), distribution and marketing (16%) and processing (6%).
In Mexico, for example, more than 10 million tons of food is thrown away annually, representing 37% of the country’s agricultural production, according to the Food Loss and Waste Technical Group.
“This food waste represents a terrible loss in investment in agriculture and in the input of energy needed to produce food that is then lost and from which the expected returns are not realized,” explained José Cuesta, a poverty specialist at the World Bank and author of the book Food Price Watch. which monitors world food prices and their socioeconomic effects on the population. “This is the income that the Latin American farmer will no longer receive for a product that he will not be able to sell,” he added.
According to experts, there are urgent technical measures that can help stop this food waste. Some are as simple as using plastic containers to store harvested fruit (instead of bags) or improving refrigeration systems to avoid losses at the storage stage.
The economic logic of this problem is simple but overwhelming: the more food households waste, the more additional food they will have to buy to meet their needs. This implies that families spend more of their income on food and less on other activities such as education or health.