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Almost 20 Per Cent of China's Grain Wasted from Field to Fork

06 September 2013

CHINA - A comprehensive new review of food waste in the People's Republic of China has concluded that about 19 of every 100 pounds of grain produced in the country go to waste, with related losses of water for irrigation and farmland productivity.

Junguo Liu and colleagues point out that food waste is a global problem with an estimated one-third to one-half of food produced worldwide being lost or wasted from farm to fork. Estimates suggest that the United States wastes about 40 per cent of food crops.

The problem is especially acute in China. With only six per cent of the world's total water resources and barely nine per cent of the arable land, China nevertheless must feed 21 per cent of the world's population. Liu's team set out to document loss and waste of food as a basis for developing policies that could help sustain the food supply in the future.

They found that about 19 per cent of rice, wheat and other grain in China is lost or wasted, with consumer waste accounting for the largest portion, seven per cent.

The overall loss meant the waste of an estimated 177 billion cubic yards of water used to produce food grown but never eaten — a volume equal to the amount of water Canadian farmers use to grow all their crops.

And it meant the waste of 64 million acres of cropland sown and harvested in vain. Liu and colleagues recommended several strategies, including raising public awareness, improving storage systems, mechanizing the harvest of grains and putting in place monitoring programs to track food waste with more precision.

The report appears in ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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