Indiaretailing.com: Food Sector Wastage, a Key Concern

Discussion
Oct 14, 2008

By Raja Ghosal

Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of an article from Indiaretailing.com, presented here for discussion.

The food sector is in great need of technological advancement and modernization as there is huge wastage that happens in this sector. This was pointed out by none other than India’s commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath in a video link address that he delivered at the India Retail Forum, 2008.

In his video address from Delhi, Kamal Nath said, “If we have to reach global standards in retail, it is important to bring in the right technology and quality to meet the demands of the consumers and most of all in the food sector.”

“Today, Indian fruits and vegetables are the highest in production in the world. We are the largest producer in the world, but 40 percent of fruits and vegetables are rotting,” lamented Mr. Nath. He stressed on the importance of cold chains to address the needs of the food sector. Mr. Nath said that if India has to reach global standards in retail and engage with the world then the retail industry must modernize itself across the spectrum and look at technological advancements.

It may be pointed out here that 98 percent of the fruit and vegetables produced in India are not yet processed in the organized sector. Similarly, even though India is the largest producer of milk in the world, 85 percent of the milk is not processed. The quantum of wastage that happens to fruits and vegetables in India is one of the highest in the world.

Discussion Question: How serious a problem is food wastage across the globe? How big an issue is food wastage in the U.S.? What can India learn from the waste reduction practices of the U.S. and other countries?

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4 Comments on "Indiaretailing.com: Food Sector Wastage, a Key Concern"


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Al McClain
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Al McClain
13 years 7 months ago

There is a tremendous amount of waste in the restaurant business in the U.S. While the leftover portions of huge meals are sometimes taken home, they are often overpackaged in non-biodegradable plastic, polystyrene, etc. For more info.: Polystyrene & Fast Food Packaging Waste

Charles P. Walsh
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Charles P. Walsh
13 years 7 months ago
As a developing country, India suffers from a very weak infrastructure which wreaks havoc on the efficiency by which production/supply is pared with demand. India’s transportation and logistics infrastructure (including highways, transport companies, cold food storage and so on) is incredibly underdeveloped. Compounding this, it’s retail distribution and purchasing network is highly fragmented. Their agricultural industry is made up of millions upon millions of small farms producing small quantities of products. When you consider this, it is no wonder that they experience a 40% waste figure, in fact it is very likely that the number is far greater. India will need to undertake massive reforms and investments, the country needs an infusion of modern retail, infrastructure (roads, rails, 3rd party logistics) and consolidation of production in order to make any real headway in significant reductions of waste. Another obstacle for India is their relative democracy and significant barriers in local government and the tribal nature of their makeup whose nation contains literally hundreds of languages. Despite the doom and gloom there are other models to… Read more »
Bill Bittner
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Bill Bittner
13 years 7 months ago

I think recent economic concerns regarding energy and material costs are making everyone more conscious of the inefficiencies in the food distribution channels. Although India may have a completely different set of circumstances, with poor infrastructure and lack of packing or refrigeration facilities in many areas, even more developed countries are beginning to rethink their “throw away and replace it” attitudes.

We have seen this with new efforts toward “assortment rationalization” and the implementation of better forecasting and targeted discount programs. All these work to reduce the amount of waste.

And when all else fails, many companies are taking a hard look at how the mistakes are handled and instead of merely throwing out merchandise, are making an effort to get it to the most needy. All these are good things and work toward relieving stress on the environment.

Max Goldberg
Guest
13 years 7 months ago

As long as there are hungry people, food waste is an issue that should be addressed. Clearly, countries like India and China, with their huge populations, need to be concerned about food waste. Steps need to be taken to preserve the freshness and quality of food as it moves from the fields and processing plants to the stores and then to homes. India and other developing countries need to address this issue within the overall discussion of food safety.

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