Food processing, packaging stage account for nearly half of food losses registered in South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA – Nearly between one third to half of all food produced globally for human consumption, is lost or wasted due to inefficiencies along the food value chain.

This gives rise to economic, social and environmental impacts amounting to US$940 billion, according to a report authored on behalf of Champions.

A recent study by CSIR, estimates food losses and waste in South Africa amounts to nearly 10.3 million tonnes per annum.

This is in the same order of magnitude of previous estimates stipulated in 2013 which was 10.2 million tonnes. However, the distribution of the losses and waste across the value chain is different.

The new study notes that from the 10.3 million tonnes of food losses and waste registered, 34.3% is from local production. This is a slight increase in comparison from 2013’s estimates which was 31.4% i.e., 9.01 million tonnes per annum from agricultural production.

South Africa’s food losses at consumption stage increased from 5% to 18%

With South Africa being a net exporter of food, majority of the losses and waste accounting to 49% of the total, are incurred in the processing and packaging stage of the value chain.

The most significant difference between the 2013 and 2021 studies, according to the report was found to be in the consumption stage, where food waste increased from 5% to 18%.

Cereals contribute half of the overall losses and waste, followed by fruit and vegetables (19%), milk (14%) and meat (9%).

The 18% losses at the consumption stage is of particular concern since consumption stage waste is of high value with limited re-purposing options and often avoidable.

In a bid to bridge the widening gap, non-profit organization’s such as SA Harvest food has been rescuing nutritious foods from ending up in landfill and delivering it to vulnerable communities in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, the Free State and Mpumalanga.

In April, the organization attained a significant milestone of delivering over 5 million meals to where it’s needed most in just 18 months.

Established in October 2019, SA Harvest collects surplus food from donors at the farming, manufacturing, wholesaler, retailer, and consumer household levels, before it spoils or ends up in landfill.

The rescued food is packaged into nutritious food bundles and delivered to vetted beneficiaries where it is used to create meals for vulnerable communities.

From its first beneficiary, The Service Dining Rooms, in Cape Town, to now more than 80 grassroots community-based organizations around the country, SA Harvest’s growth has been exponential.

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