More results...

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
Food waste

Food security in SA? Stop the rot

Malnutrition is a major issue for millions of poor South Africans, yet half of the country’s fresh produce is wasted.

Research by Susan Oelofse at the CSIR last year found that more than half of the fruit and vegetables grown in the country is wasted – about 3.6-billion kg a year.

For some perspective, if the wasted fruit and vegetables were 10kg bags of potatoes, every person in Johannesburg could receive a bag of potatoes once a week for a year, and there would still be food left over.

Ninety-six percent of losses occur before fruit and vegetables find their way into consumers’ fridges.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 1.7-million deaths worldwide (2.8% of the global total) are attributable to low fruit and vegetable consumption. The WHO recommends that a person consume at least about 400g of fruit and vegetables daily.

Ronel Stolz, a sales representative with RSA Market Agents, a national agency that handles fresh produce for farmers and sells it to buyers, says that up to 10% of the fresh produce they receive from farmers is already rotting. She works in the cavernous fruit hall at the Jo’burg Market, which looks like a cargo terminal at an international airport, with caterpillar-like wagons carting boxes in and out of the hall.

“If we get 400 boxes [of fruit], sometimes 30 to 40 of them can’t be sold,” she says.

If a box contains between 60 and 130 apples, it means between 1 800 and 5 200 apples are lost. If the average apple weighs about 150g, 450 to 1300 people could consume their WHO-recommended daily fruit and vegetables from the apple equivalents that are lost in one consignment.

If the food is spoiling, the market is tasked with disposing of it. The Market’s quality assurance manager, Craig Pillay, who is responsible for monitoring the quality of the produce, says only about 1% of food is destroyed.

However, if the market moves one million tonnes of fresh produce that means 100 000 tonnes are lost every year.

Post-harvest technologists based in South Africa say many of these food losses are avoidable through technology to prolong the food life.

“You don’t need to produce more [food],” says Elke Crouch, a post-­harvest technologist at the University of Stellenbosch, “but save what you have.”

Losses raise food security concerns, but inputs – money spent on fertilisers, pesticides and transportation and finite resources such as water – are also being wasted, and the produce consumers buy is more expensive as they bear the brunt of the input costs.

Post-harvest research chair Umezuruike Opara, based at Stellenbosch University, says: “Agriculture is one of the major users of scarce natural resource, such as land, water, energy… The use of production inputs and resources such as carbon-intensive fuel, fertilisers and pesticides is also a major contributor to the cost of food.”

When food is lost, the money and resources that go into making it are lost too.

Experts agree that improvements in the logistics chain could reduce losses, and research has a pivotal role to play, but research costs money.

Most of the post-harvest research in South Africa focuses on fruit, rather than vegetables, because that is where the export money is. The Department of Science & Technology funds a post-harvest innovation programme, but this also focuses on the fruit industry…..

Mail & Guardian: Read the full article

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.