Reducing high food losses and waste will be critical to improving food availability, achieving food security, and reducing stress on natural resources in the fast-growing Near East and North Africa (NENA) region, FAO said.
The region relies on imports to meet over 50% of its food needs, yet it loses up to a third of the food it produces and imports, including about 14–19% of its grains, 26% of all fish and seafood, 13% of its meat, and 45% of all fruits and vegetables.
FAO has proposed a Regional Strategic Framework for reducing food losses and waste, which was discussed at the agency's 24–28 February Regional Conference for the Near East, taking place in Rome.
Governments have made the commitment to reduce food losses and waste in the region by 50% in 10 years. Resource and labour losses in their countries translate into lower economic returns for agri-business and farmers and higher food import bills.
FAO's research shows a lack of sufficient and accurate regional information on how food is lost and wasted and why, and the Strategic Framework recommends data-gathering as one of the priority areas for action. Still, information available on the Near East and North Africa region shows that roughly 44% of food losses and waste occur during handling, processing and distribution of food, while waste at the consumption stage is estimated to be 34%, most of it in urban areas.
Regional Conference participants have endorsed the Regional Strategic Framework, recommending the following broad areas for action:
- improving data gathering, analysis and information;
- raising public awareness and promotion of good practices among farmers, consumers and those who handle food all along the supply chain;
- developing policies and regulations and strengthening collaboration and coordination among people, institutions and countries;
- promoting investment and engaging the private sector.