A third of the food the world produces is never consumed, meaning that prices are being artificially inflated and resources wasted – but record harvests of wheat and maize are bringing some relief to struggling consumers by bringing prices down from their recent all-time high.
These are the findings in a damning new report from the World Bank, which chastises wealthy nations such as the UK and the US for throwing away far too much food and laments the woeful food handling and storage facilities in the developing world, which allows essential staples to perish.
“The amount of food wasted and lost globally is shameful,” said World Bank president Jim Yong Kim.
“Millions of people around the world go to bed hungry every night and yet millions of tons of food end up in trash cans or spoiled on the way to the market. We have to tackle this problem in every country in order to improve food security and end poverty,” he added.
The World Bank drew attention in its report to recent figures showing that the average UK household of four throws away £660 a year, while the US figure is even higher – at £960.
However, the World Bank reports that the average food staple has fallen by 11 per cent in the past year and is 18 per cent below its record in August 2012.
Much of the decline can be put down to record wheat and maize harvests – helped by good weather and falling fertiliser costs – which pushed down the price of those crops by 21 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively.
Furthermore, the report expects prices to continue to decline in the short term, with fertiliser prices set to fall further and conditions for crops forecast to be favourable.
However, the report notes that food prices are still historically high and cautions that crops could still be hit. “Deteriorating weather concerns among major producers and exporters, especially those in Argentina, Australia and parts of China; higher oil prices and the effects of an increasingly anticipated release of public stockpiles in Thailand on export rice prices all constitute risks to monitor in the short term,” it said.
The report found that 56 per cent of the total food lost and wasted occurs in the developing country, most of it lost during the production, handling and storage phases. In the developed world, most of the waste relates to the “consumption” stage.