ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Supply-side Problems in Food Loss and Waste

Issues in Mitigation through Cold Chain

The food systems approach proposes reducing food loss and waste as a potential solution to achieve food and nutritional security. This is formalised in the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Despite the issue receiving such ubiquitous recognition, systematic efforts to measure and address FLW are absent in India. Our calculations show that one-sixth of agricultural production, accounting for one-tenth of the gross value added in agriculture, is lost. An efficient cold chain can reduce these losses substantially. However, the concept of an integrated cold chain is still in its infancy in the country, with greater emphasis being placed on single commodity cold storage. Promotional policies like the negotiable warehousing receipt system and the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund have not made an impact. Cold chain development will remain exclusive to export-oriented farmers and traders unless policies are introduced to enable small farmers, farmer producer organisations, and self-help groups to harness its benefits. Relevant start-up innovations can be scaled up through public support. A new institutional mechanism is needed to address the issue of FLW and achieve India’s SDGs.


This paper is based on a larger study conducted by Chandra S R Nuthalapati for the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, New Delhi.

The rise of the food systems approach to development issues in food and agriculture has been altering the ways and means of achieving food and nutrition security—an issue that has garnered immediate policy attention in the contemporary world (Pingali et al 2019). The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3 calls for a commitment to halve food waste at the retail and consumer level and to reduce food loss across supply chains. As the food systems approach focuses on all the actors in the chain rather than only on production sites, the opportunity for increasing the supply of food is extended not only by spurring production but also by reducing losses through the entire chain and smoothening the production cycle by processing for longer preservation (Cattaneo et al 2021; FAO 2020). Loss reduction can have pronounced positive impacts on food security and the environment in low-income countries (Kuiper and Cui 2021).

Globally, around 14% of the food produced is lost between the post-harvest stage till, but excluding, the retail stage (FAO 2019). Developing countries, despite having high levels of hunger and starvation, account for 44% of the 1.3 billion tonnes of global food loss. While this results in direct welfare losses by reducing the food available for the needy, it has adverse environmental consequences too. The carbon footprint of food produced and not consumed due to loss or waste is estimated to be 3.3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GoI 2018).

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Updated On : 4th Apr, 2022
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