Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on Monday estimated that food losses in sub-Saharan Africa add up to 432 billion Kenyan shillings (about 4 billion U.S. dollars) annually.
In a statement issued ahead of the first-ever International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste to be marked on Tuesday, FAO called on African countries to bolster their efforts and encourage private sector investments to reduce food losses and waste.
Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO assistant director-general and regional representative for Africa said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a wake-up call for the need to radically transform our food systems to make them more efficient and sustainable for people and the planet.
“Tackling food loss and waste, and particularly post-harvest loss reduction, in Africa is essential to achieve that goal,” Haile-Gabriel said on the eve of the international day.
According to the UN food agency, a vast majority of food loss across Africa happens between harvest and the point of sale, while very little is wasted by consumers after purchase.
It said some of the leading causes of food loss in Africa are a lack of cold chain facilities especially for perishables, unreliable and inadequate storage facilities and insufficient agro-processing skills among smallholder farming communities.
According to analysis from FAO, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused consumers in many low-income countries to purchase only staple carbohydrates and non-perishables, resulting in perishable food often being wasted in markets.
The report says physical distancing measures in some countries have reduced the number of customers in markets, also resulting in increased food losses and reduced incomes for traders.
FAO said reducing food losses on farms and at harvest time, particularly in countries with high levels of food insecurity, can make great inroads towards food security and improved nutrition.
It said such changes are a responsibility shared by governments, the private sector, civil society, development agencies, research and academic institutions, and consumers.