Washington — Preserving crops from the time they are harvested until they reach consumers is the focus of a February 19 State Department forum for diplomats from Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, researchers, and business executives.
Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs José Fernandez will lead the forum.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), by 2050 when the world's population reaches 9 billion people, demand for food will be 60 percent more than the current demand. Because more production alone is not enough to meet that demand, stopping food waste is crucial, FAO says.
Currently, 1.3 billion tons of the food produced in the world is lost or wasted every year, or about one-third of what is grown, FAO says.
The causes of post-harvest loss vary depending on weather, region and crop. Common causes in the developing world include a lack of proper storage and processing equipment; transporting food in open, unrefrigerated vehicles; lack of information about the problem and its solutions; and limited access to credit so farmers can purchase adequate equipment, the State Department says.
Through its Feed the Future program, the United States is stepping in to address the issue. The U.S. Agency for International Development has asked to review proposals for projects that link renewable energy technologies with farmers and agribusinesses in low-income countries involved in improved food processing and storage. In January, USAID said it had joined innovation giant DuPont and the government of Ethiopia to help smallholder farmers in that country reduce their post-harvest losses by as much as 20 percent.
Public awareness of post-harvest loss and food waste has significantly increased over the last two to three years, said Steve Sonka, who heads the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss at the University of Illinois.
"The world can grow enough seed and oil grains to serve the needs for food, feed, fiber and fuel," said Sonka, who will be on a forum panel discussing how to move from post-harvest loss research to implementation through technologies like stronger grain bags and bins.
Feed the Future is President Obama's global initiative to reduce hunger and poverty.
The ADM institute is an international hub for evaluating, developing and disseminating information about economically viable loss-reduction technologies. It was established in 2011 with a $10 million grant from Archer Daniel Midlands Company, a global producer of grains and grain products.
More information about Feed the Future and the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss is available on their websites.