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How significant is the food waste problem in the EU ?

Source: European Commission

88 million tonnes

Of food waste are generated annually, equivalent to 173 kilos per person!

20%

Of the total food produced is lost or wasted, while 55 million people cannot afford a quality meal every second day!

170 million tonnes

Of CO2 are emitted from production and disposal of EU food waste!

6 ways to ensure that in future our food is #GrowNoThrown

We believe it is very important to focus the discussions and actions on the concept of “wastage”, which relates to an individual’s behaviour. It is essential to make a clear distinction between what is “avoidable” and what is “non-avoidable”. When defining food losses, it is important to consider that several factors affecting primary agricultural production go beyond farmers’ control, such as adverse weather conditions, pests and diseases. Including such losses in food waste statistics would give the wrong idea, as it would overestimate food losses and food waste without addressing the real issue: behaviour.

Raising awareness, educating people about food and cooperating are essential elements to prevent and reduce food losses and food waste. In many countries, farmers and their cooperatives are part of food redistribution networks to facilitate donations of agricultural produce. This must be promoted. Campaigns to raise awareness of the value of food and to improve understanding of date markings on food packages or how to better store food at home are also vital in order to better inform people and to prevent waste.

Greater focus on optimising and re-using resources is an opportunity for new business models to emerge and enhance the competitiveness of the EU agriculture sector. For instance, the idea of using residues from initial harvesting activities or co-products from primary raw material processing in other business activities is promising and should be promoted. The circular economy is a real opportunity to develop and efficiently manage alternative processes and products as well as gain access to new markets. Agri-food value chain operators are making efforts to implement applied research and to facilitate the transfer of knowledge.

Improving farmers’ position in the food supply chain is essential. Unfair trading practices such as cancelled orders and last-minute order changes have a negative impact on the prevention and reduction of food losses and food waste. In addition, market disruption resulting in a farm gate price that does not cover production costs is a UTP that needs to be tackled. This is why legislation, voluntary agreements as well as monitoring, controls and enforcement are essential to protect farmers, improve their position in the food chain and avoid UTPs.

Technology is essential and needs to help farmers meet current challenges. Indeed, modern agriculture is evolving, and innovative agricultural techniques and practices help farmers increase efficiency and reduce the amount of natural resources necessary to meet different demands. For example, precision farming can help farmers prevent and reduce losses. This is why facilitating and promoting access to technology can be very beneficial. Farmers need to be equipped with a toolbox that allows them to overcome current and future challenges. Farmers and breeders need to be increasingly innovative to deal with the challenge of feeding a growing world population with limited resources and increasingly variable weather events, ranging from floods to drought. For example, we need to develop new plant varieties which are resistant to water and heat stress as a way of adapting to climate change. European farmers and their cooperatives need access to technological advancements in order to meet the upcoming challenges and to remain competitive. Yet for investments to be made, breeders need legal certainty and a well-functioning EU single market. Plant health is also being undermined by the lack of effective tools, be they mechanical, chemical or biological. Farmers are faced with a decreasing availability of plant protection products, either because they have been phased out due to new legal requirements or because of changes to the European Union’s maximum residue limit system. This is even worse for minor uses and specialty crops, such as rice or most fruit and vegetables. For these crops, the lack of plant protection products is becoming a growing problem that needs to be addressed. The situation could be remedied, for example, by improving the functioning of the mutual recognition system for plant protection products under Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009; simplifying the criteria and fast-track procedures for basic and low-risk active substances; and tackling the lack of proper solutions for minor uses and specialty crops. In the area of animal health, we would like to stress the importance of good hygiene, proper animal nutrition and an appropriate environment and animal husbandry. These elements are farmers’ top priorities and play a
crucial role in disease prevention. Nevertheless, despite such measures, animals can still get sick and need to be treated for both animal health and welfare reasons. Appropriate treatment and veterinary medicines should therefore be available in all EU Member States and for all species. Minor uses and minor species – which still face a substantial lack of veterinary medicinal products – should also be covered.

EU marketing standards are understood to serve as a common language, ensuring a level playing field. The number of marketing standards has already been considerably reduced. In many cases, transactions do not take place physically and operators make their orders on the phone or electronically. The product identities laid down in marketing standards help establish a minimum set of requirements to ensure high quality, fair competition, market transparency and consumer information and protection. Marketing standards also contribute to avoiding market distortion between producers in Europe and third countries. Initiatives to promote so-called “ugly” fruit and vegetables can also meet the expectations of some consumers and should therefore continue.

You are a farmer, an association or an agri-cooperative fighting against food waste in Europe?

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