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Food Loss and Waste are a Real Problem in South Africa

27 August 2017

Why aren’t we more careful with what we cook and how we store so that we don’t waste so much food?

Around 12 Million South Africans go to bed hungry every night, and yet we waste carelessly. Collectively it has a huge impact on our country (and on your monthly income).

Food Loss and Waste in South Africa

The 2017 ‘Food loss and waste: facts and futures’ report, compiled by the WWF-SA, investigates food loss and waste in South Africa.

According to the report, a third of all food in the country is not consumed, but wasted, while millions of South Africans go to bed hungry every night.

How much food we Waste per Year

In South Africa estimates suggest that about 10 million tons of food go to waste in South Africa every year. This accounts for a third of the 31million tons of food produced annually.

The losses comprise 44% fruit and vegetables, 26% grains, 15% meat, and 13% roots, tubers and oilseeds.

Annual Cost of Wasted Food

The Household Food Waste Study notes that the average annual cost of household food waste in South Africa is R21.7-million. Therefore, preventing food wastage will not only save money for households, but will have broader economic, social and environmental benefits.

Most Food is Lost Post-Harvest

Ok, it isn’t all our fault as consumers because most of us understand the art of freezing, storage and portions. The fact is that most of the loss of food occurs early in the food supply chain where 50% is lost during the post-harvest phase, 25% during processing and packaging, 20% during distribution and retail, and 5% at consumer level.

Using Spinach as an Example

The researchers selected spinach because of the product’s high risk of waste throughout the chain. The results showed that the greatest wastage occurred at the production and processing stages. Of the initial 100g of spinach produced on the farm, only 26g ended up being eaten.

A WWF study in Rustenburg in North West, found that the weight of food waste as a percentage of the total weight of domestic waste collected at various households was 27% in low-income areas, 13% in middle-income areas, and 17% in high-income areas.

Energy Wasted Per Year

The energy wasted every year in South Africa to produce food that is never consumed is estimated at enough to power the City of Johannesburg for roughly 16 weeks.

Wasted Water

The wasted water would fill over 600 000 Olympic size swimming pools, meaning that about 1,7 billion cubic metres of ground and surface water, which is around a fifth of the total water used, goes to producing food that will be wasted.

South Africa has no legislation governing food waste, and existing legislation generally covers waste and waste management.

Part of the solution is dependent on us, the consumers to do what we can to avoid wasting food.

Four Key ways to Avoid Wasting Food:

  • Don’t buy or cook more than you need unless you have plans for freezing
  • Use the oldest products first when you plan your meals
  • Plan portion sizes carefully
  • Freeze and store with care

Now is the time to begin to reduce food waste by shopping smartly, consuming leftovers, and storing food effectively, amongst other things.

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