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India wastes 21 mn tonnes of wheat every year

January 10, 2013 17:40 IST

WheatIndia stands out for its glaring lack of infrastructure and food storage facilities, in a new study that says 21 million tonnes of wheat -- equivalent to the entire production of Australia -- goes waste in the country.

The report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers on global food wastage found that as much as 50 per cent of all food produced around the world never reaches a human mouth.

"Considerably greater levels of tonnage loss exist in larger developing nations, such as India for example, where about 21 million tonnes of wheat annually perishes due to inadequate storage and distribution, equivalent to the entire production of Australia," said the 'Global Food Waste Not Want Not' report, released in London on Thursday.

"In neighbouring Pakistan, losses amount to about 16 per cent of production, or 3.2 million tonnes annually, where inadequate storage infrastructure leads to widespread rodent infestation problems," it said.

Overall, wastage rates in vegetables and fruit are even higher than for grains. At least 40 per cent of all fruit and vegetable is lost in India between the grower and consumer due to lack of refrigerated transport, poor roads, inclement weather and corruption.

According to the latest survey, wastage tends to move up the distribution chain as the standard of development improves and regional and national transport, storage and distribution facilities fail to match the improvements made at the farm level.

This is a particular issue in India, which requires massive investments in the food logistics chain.

"Controlling and reducing the level of wastage is frequently beyond the capability of the individual farmer, distributor or consumer, since it depends on market philosophies, security of power supply, quality of roads and the presence or absence of transport hubs.

"These are all related more to societal, political and economic norms, as well as engineered infrastructure, rather than to agriculture," the authors of the report said, calling on governments in the developing world to introduce better technology and food storage facilities.

The Indian government has maintained that the recent reforms in the retail sector approved by Parliament, allowing 51 per cent foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail and 100 per cent FDI in the single-brand segment, will lead to increased investments in infrastructure and improve the logistics chain.

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