Economy, Domestic Economy

Food Waste Cost Exorbitant

Annual food waste in Iran is worth $15 billion, making up for 60% of the $25 billion worth of oil revenues estimated for the current Iranian year (March 2016-17)
Food Waste Cost Exorbitant Food Waste Cost Exorbitant

Statistics by Food and Agricultural Organization on food waste in Iran are staggering.

According to these figures, 1.3 billion tons of food, mainly fruit, vegetables, fish and grains, are wasted globally every year and Iran is responsible for 2.7%, equal to about 35 million tons of the total sum.

Iranians waste bread, fruit, vegetables and rice more than anything.

FAO reports that some 900 million people around the world suffer from hunger, 800 million of which could be fed with the amount of food wasted every year across the world, the Persian daily Shahrvand reported.

There are two patterns of food waste. In developing countries, food waste happens mostly between the harvest and processing stages while in developed countries the retailing system and customers are the main culprits.

Reports by the European Union indicate that its 28 member states produce some 90 million tons of food waste annually. As such, it could be said that Iran alone produces food waste equal to 10 European countries.

Based on the article published by Mehdi Rastegari and Ali Teyfouri for the First International Congress of Healthy Agriculture, Nutrition and Society, annual food waste in Iran is worth $15 billion, making up 60% of the $25 billion worth of oil revenues estimated for the current Iranian year (March 2016-17).

There is another side to the alarming situation and that is the issue of water. According to a report by the National Center of Strategic Studies on Agriculture and Water, affiliated with Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, the water lost in producing this amount of food waste is close to 9.3 billion cubic meters.

The Ministry of Energy believes the agriculture sector consumes 83 billion cubic meters of water while the Ministry of Agriculture claims the figure to be in the neighborhood of 57 billion cubic meters. Based on the former, food waste accounts for a ninth and according to the latter, a sixth of the amount of water used by agriculture.

A disconcerting fact here is that the amount of potable water used by Iranians combined with the water used in all areas of industry in the country amounts to 7 billion cubic meters, which is less than the water squandered as food waste.

“The chronic malaise in Iran’s economy is evident here as well. There are no clear and transparent statistics or information regarding the amount of waste from food processing factories, or the dumping of foodstuff, and therefore, no proper planning can be made,” says secretary of Iran Food Industry Associations Center, Ali Movahhed.

“A major part of the garbage produced in the country, almost 65% of it, is wet waste. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to turn this waste into money like they do in developed countries due to lack of modern technology in the field of recycling.”

He referred to some plausible activities undertaken to recycle paper or dairy products inside the country but, all in all, noted that recycling in Iran has had a poor performance.

Arasb Dabbagh-Moghaddam with Iran Veterinary Organization believes a decrease in food waste in the country must be promptly brought about with technology enhancement and expansion of an up-to-date processing industry.

“Promoting a culture by which consumers feel obliged to use foodstuff efficiently is a must in this respect,” he said.