Caribbean joins challenge to reduce food losses, waste
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FAO is currently working on the technical proposal for an international code of conduct for food loss and waste management
FAO is currently working on the technical proposal for an international code of conduct for food loss and waste management

THE Food and Nutrition Security Strategy for Guyana (2010-2020) has acknowledged that the key to ending hunger at the national level lies in social and agrarian reforms, along with recognition that everyone has a right to a sustainable diet.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) draws a nexus between food insecurity and food that is lost or wasted daily, to show that these are not contradictory concepts, but that indeed, by solving one, world leaders can also solve the other.

Regarding food that is lost or wasted daily in the Caribbean region, FAO notes that no effort to eradicate hunger and poverty in the Caribbean would be viable without public policies that promote more sustainable patterns of food consumption and production.

According to FAO studies, the loss level for cassava, a staple food for food security in the Caribbean, reaches up to 23 per cent in Guyana, and 20 per cent in Trinidad and Tobago.

Figures for Guyana also show a 34 per cent waste of tomatoes, compared to 27 per cent in Trinidad and Tobago, and 20 per cent in Saint Lucia.

Guyana’s National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) estimates that about 30 per cent of all fruits and vegetables produced in the country go to waste.
A similar figure is observed in respect to vegetables in Haiti: 35 per cent lost or wasted, according to IICA.

At the regional level, FAO notes that food losses and waste in Latin America reach 223 kg per person per year, more than enough to meet the caloric needs of all who suffer hunger in the region.

“While there is no current estimate of the total losses in the Caribbean, studies show that these are due to poor infrastructure, inadequate post-harvest food practices, and serious limitations in the organisation of value chains,” said Vyjayanthi López from the FAO Sub-regional Office for the Caribbean.

Caribbean countries are making multiple efforts to reduce their food losses and waste. In relation to production and harvest, Granada has advanced a system of crop forecasting and planning. In terms of processing and packaging infrastructure, Grenada and Guyana have consolidated the implementation of cold chains, and have provided adequate equipment for the processing and storage of fruits and vegetables, to avoid post-harvest losses.

Both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have undertaken similar actions, and have complemented those actions with training for producers, food packers and marketers in the potato and cassava chains.

As for market and consumption, Grenada is promoting value-added in fresh local products by producing pulps-and-packaging-combined products, allowing the life of the food to be extended, and to facilitate its preparation for consumers.

The Caribbean Farmers Network, which brings together members from 14 countries, is promoting local food purchases and market diversification.

At the policy level, the reduction of food losses and waste has been incorporated as a key element in the strategies for overcoming hunger and poverty in Caribbean countries, such as the Government of Grenada’s Zero Hunger Challenge.

“Today, as never before, farmers need assistance in applying science and technology to prevent and reduce food losses and waste, considering that globalisation forces them to become more efficient producers,” said Alvin da Breo, Minister of Agriculture of Grenada, during the II Regional Dialogue on Prevention and Reduction of Food Losses and Waste, held in Saint George’s, Grenada on November 17 and 18.

At that meeting, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Colombia and the Dominican Republic shared with the countries of the Caribbean their experiences in articulating the public and private sectors, and in institutionalising national actions for the prevention of food waste.

The participants of the event ratified in a declaration their commitment to promote national actions and to strengthen the articulation between all Latin American and Caribbean countries on this subject.

FAO is currently supporting the Caribbean through training in the use of its methodology for characterising and measuring food losses. It has trained 500 officials from ministries of agriculture and producers in Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have strengthened their political will and institutional capacity to meet the challenge of food losses by creating active platforms for articulation at different levels and with diverse sectors.

To date, seven National Committees and a Regional Alliance for Latin America have been created to implement a joint strategy based on national action plans for the reduction of food losses and waste. According to the FAO, with greater involvement of Caribbean countries in these actions and alliances, the entire region would take an important step towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of halving food losses and waste per year 2030.

FAO is currently working on the technical proposal for an international code of conduct for food loss and waste management, an instrument that would provide a shared vision of these issues to facilitate the exchange of information and promote international cooperation.

“All countries have food losses and waste, so an international instrument of a voluntary nature is needed as a reference for formulating strategies and building solutions,” says Tania Santivañez, coordinator of FAO’s Strategic Programme on Inclusive and Efficient Food Systems.

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