According to forecasts by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), by 2050 the world’s population will reach 9.1 billion people. At that time, there must be an increase of 70% in terms of food production in order to cope with future demand for food. Of this increase, annual production of grains must rise from 2.1 billion metric tons (MT) to 3 billion MT, while meat production must increase from 200 million MT to 470 million MT (FAO, 2009). Also, according to forecasts from the APEC “Food Security Roadmap towards 2020”, future increases in population and urbanization will lead to more limitations on natural resources such as arable land and fresh water. Nowadays, there are 2 billion undernourished people in the world. Therefore, it is extremely important to increase the efficiency of food supply. The key is to reduce post-harvest losses in the production value chain.
The terms “food losses and waste” refers to food lost or wasted during the process of handling of crops at harvest time, packaging, transporting, processing, marketing, food preparation, and finally the purchasing and consumption by consumers. According to FAO’s estimates, 1.3 billion MT of food are wasted in the process from harvesting to consumption each year, which is about one-third of food used. The 2014 APEC Ministerial Meeting on Food Security adopted the “APEC Food Security Roadmap towards 2020,” and set a goal of reducing food losses in the Asia-Pacific region by 10%. The meeting also established the communication and cooperative relations between APEC meetings, in order to facilitate exchanges on agricultural technology, information, and policy, in order to achieve the food security policy goals. In addition, the United Nations adopted the “2030 Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) in 2015, aiming to reduce food waste in the retail and consumption stages by 50% per capita.
In the Asia-Pacific region, following transformations including increased population and the rise of the middle class, the quality and security of the food supply chain has come under scrutiny from all sectors of society. APEC has held many activities on lowering food losses since 2010. The 1st APEC Ministerial Meeting on Food Security (MMFS) in 2010 adopted a 62 action plans on Food Security, and six initiatives were proposed by Taiwan who has continued to actively play a leading role. The 2nd MMFS proposed in 2012 focused on five major themes, including stipulation of food market laws and strengthening food safety. At the same time, Taiwan proposed the five-year plan for “Strengthening Public-Private Partnership to Reduce Food Loss in the Supply Chain,” which was adopted by an APEC resolution in 2013. At the 3rd APEC MMFS in 2014, APEC adopted “Improve post-harvest management to reduce loss” and “Strengthen regional cooperation to promote food security” as two policy priorities of three main themes. APEC also mentioned Taiwan’s multi-year APEC project in Paragraph 15 of the Beijing Declaration in recognition of Taiwan’s contributions in promoting food security. The 4th APEC MMFS in 2016 continued to emphasize the importance of reducing food losses in infrastructure investment in the Asia-Pacific region toward achieving a sustainable APEC Food System by 2020.
The multi-year plan led by Taiwan is to be implemented in three phases. The first phase was mainly focused on building a network of experts and holding capacity-building workshops for reducing food losses in the major areas of grains, fruits and vegetables, fishery and livestock, and the food consumption level. The second stage was focused on creating a universal methodology for estimating food losses and building a toolkit for reducing food losses, while at the same time building the APEC-FLOWS website to share databases and toolkit information and collect and organize best practices for reducing food losses in the Asia-Pacific region. The third stage is focused on (a) quantified estimates for reaching the APEC target of reducing food waste by 10% by 2020 and (b) inventorying the public policies adopted by government agencies to reduce food losses as well as ideas from the private sector (including businesses and non-governmental organizations). Taiwan also published an APEC food losses quantification handbook and suggestions for action plans at the APEC High-Level Policy Dialogue held in June of 2018 Taipei, for all APEC members to be referenced and application.
While Taiwan actively implements the APEC multi-year plan, the industrial, governmental, and academic sectors have initiated numerous local actions. Most private businesses aim to reduce food losses and waste based on the goal of reducing costs or the idea of social responsibility. For example, at the 2017 capacity-building workshop, McDonalds in Taiwan shared how they successfully reduced food waste at restaurants by 30% by using a streamlined cooking process. Also, through cooperation with outlets, McDonalds set up a program for comprehensive food waste reduction and recycling. Through analysis and forecasting of demand they reduced inventories and excessive procurement. They also transformed 100% of waste oil from their kitchens into biodiesel fuel. Many non-governmental organizations and charitable organizations have also reduced food losses, based on concepts of cherishing food, loving people, and protecting our environment. Furthermore, The Alliance of Taiwan Foodbanks and all major supermarkets cooperate with the local governments to make prepared meals from surplus food or food that is about to reach its expiration date for the needed people or disadvantaged families. So far they have distributed about 14 million boxed meals to those in need. In addition, The Homemakers Union has saved about 8.1 metric tons of food waste through the “one basket of vegetables each week” program since 2014 as well as collective purchasing, green consumption, and environmental friendliness for the benefit of the farmers and the food processors.
Academic and research institutions have mainly focused on developing new tools or guiding farmers and fishermen to cooperate with the supply chain. Most of their ideas have been applied in the food industry and their concrete results have been shared with APEC members. Taking the fruit and vegetable industry as examples, National Chung-Hsing University has provided blanching methods to reduce papaya losses. National Taiwan University has provided superior mango orchard management methods to increase mango production volume while decreasing damage from insects. In terms of fisheries and livestock, National Taiwan Ocean University has shared methods for using the whole tilapia fish as well as results from reducing the pressure from catching more fish. National Chiayi University has shared how to use rapid freezing techniques to reduce losses in storage. The Livestock Research Institute of the Council of Agriculture has shared how to reduce duck egg losses from the production and storage to the processing stages; while National Chung-Hsing University has provided methods for increasing hog production through eliminating the gene for porcine stress syndrome.
In terms of government policy, Taiwan’s Agriculture and Food Agency (AFA) has provided financial assistance to township-level farmers’ associations and production-and-marketing cooperatives to invest in dry and low temperature storage facilities and to boost the development of post-harvest handling technologies for crops. Moreover, the AFA coordinated with the Executive Yuan and Ministry of Health and Welfare since 2018 on revising the mechanism for handling foods about to reach their expiration date. The AFA provides assistance in matching food banks with farmers and fishermen cooperatives to supply near-expired products to nearby disadvantaged groups and charitable organizations. The Fisheries Agency, meanwhile, aiming to decrease waste or catches of non-targeted species, has coordinated with measures promoted by international regional fisheries management organizations to reduce by-catch, use fish completely, process by-products, release live fish, keep records, restrict use of certain kinds of fishing equipment, manage quotas, and combat illegal fishing. The Fisheries Agency also sponsors scientists to conduct resource evaluations and related assessment projects, drafts domestic laws and regulations, implements related management measures to reduce food waste, and creates value for by-products, thereby increasing the income of fishermen.
In conclusion, due to the rising global population, the issues of food security and reducing food losses has not only gained attentions throughout the world, but Taiwan as well has devoted great efforts in implementing measures to reduce food losses and to assist APEC members with capacity-building to reduce food losses. In the future, Taiwan will continue reaching for the goals of creating an APEC database and reporting system on reducing food losses, while assist in monitoring the efforts of all parties and sharing the results of technological progress, relaxing excessively high quality or appearance standards to decrease food waste, enabling businesses to use a flexible framework to provide data and local experiences to achieve the goal of self-management, and thus make concrete contributions to food security in Asia-Pacific region.