MUMBAI and JAKARTA: Singapore had a style of it throughout the “circuit breaker” — when egg distributors had been throwing away eggs amid an oversupply, with imports up whereas demand fell.
One service provider discarded as many as 250,000 eggs after they went unhealthy in storage. Worldwide, many extra eggs had been smashed, greens and fruits had been destroyed and milk dumped.
It is one factor, nevertheless, to have it occur in a spot like Singapore, ranked primary in the Global Food Security Index; it is one other to dump food in international locations struggling to fight starvation, malnutrition and poverty.
But the latter occurs each day due to flaws in the world food supply chain, even earlier than COVID-19.
In Asia, up to 40 per cent of food is misplaced after harvesting, throughout dealing with and storage — by no means making it to the retailers in any respect.
That is what is occurring in India, house to a 3rd of the world’s malnourished youngsters. Indian authorities have estimated that shut to 60 million tonnes of grains, fruits and greens are misplaced out of complete annual manufacturing.
“It means that every week, every family in India could be gifted with 5kg of fruit and vegetables … if we save these losses,” stated Vaibhav Tidke, the 34-year-old chief government officer of food preservation firm S4S Technologies.
In Indonesia, certainly one of Singapore’s fundamental accomplice international locations for food imports, there are additionally food losses of up to 40 per cent due to inefficiencies in the supply chain, famous I Made Supartha Utama, a professor from Udayana University.
WATCH: Why a lot food is misplaced in the supply chain (15:23)
As CNA Insider finds out, it is an uphill battle for contemporary produce in these international locations to attain shoppers. But there are answers too, and what is being to stop the food waste may assist farmers in the course of.
WHEN THE RAINS COME
One of the largest issues confronted by gamers in India’s food supply chain is the nation’s erratic climate. In 2019, for instance, it “rained extensively”, identified onion wholesaler Abdul Rahman Shaikh.
It is not an unusual concern — merchants in Singapore and Malaysia have just lately misplaced vegetable provides amid the wet season.
But India is significantly susceptible as a result of farmers would not have correct storage services. Sometimes they even use street surfaces to dry their produce.
Neither is there enough infrastructure akin to refrigeration throughout the lengthy market routes throughout rural India, nor at the distribution or wholesale centres.
“In (the case of) potato, if water touches it … it rots after two days or three days. It reduces the shelf life of the produce,” cited Sanjeev Maniyal, an onion and potato wholesaler in Mumbai.
“Generally, within 24 hours (or) the same day, we (have to) sell it … Keeping (produce) in cold storage or storerooms isn’t advisable because the electricity (charges) are high here.”
Tonnes of produce, particularly staples like onions, find yourself rotting. “Quite often … the stock is damaged and can’t be used,” stated Abdul Rahman. “There’s no other way but to throw it away.”
During the wet seasons in Indonesia, food loss additionally will increase by 10 to 20 per cent, in accordance to Muhammad Firdaus, a professor from Institut Pertanian Bogor (IPB) University.
“(The farmers) have very bad packaging … to protect the fruits, to protect the staples, and (the rain) damages the products,” he stated.
And with local weather change, there is now the risk of extra unseasonable climate in additional international locations.
SCIENCE FOR SOCIETY
But what if food loss might be prevented proper after harvesting?
That query led seven college mates in Mumbai to begin S4S (Science for Society) Technologies as a social enterprise in 2013. And they’ve a easy however efficient resolution to food spoilage: Solar conduction dryers.
“We’re taking out the moisture from (perishables). And because of that, it gives them an extended shelf life of one year (without chemicals),” stated co-founder Tushar Gaware, 37.
Their patented, United Nations award-winning expertise dehydrates a variety of produce, like onions, turmeric, ginger, garlic and potatoes, which S4S buys up from farmers and sends for processing in villages close by.
They even take lower-grade produce, the sort that middlemen reject.
“What we’re proposing to farmers (is) you take out something that goes as waste, which is good food but which cannot be sustained during the entire logistics from farmer to consumer,” stated Tidke.
“(We) do the processing so that (they) get a good rate.”
S4S sends its dehydrated merchandise to India’s National Institute of Nutrition for testing, and the knowledge reveals that “almost 90 to 95 per cent” of the vitamins are retained, stated Gaware.
“The nutrition (is) one of the highest in the globe,” stated Tidke. “It makes the product as good as the fresh product.”
The dried fruits and greens are lastly sorted, graded and packed at S4S’ manufacturing unit in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, earlier than they’re bought.
“That material is rightly packed so that there’s no moisture that goes in, and then the freshness remains intact during the entire processing,” added Tidke.
The merchandise go to greater than 700 trade prospects, together with Nestle, Indian Railways, resorts and eating places throughout the nation. For restaurant proprietor Naresh Shetty in Mumbai, it means there is now not the wastage of the previous when he orders onions.
“Mostly, the lower part of the (onions) got totally rotten,” he stated. “It affected the revenue of the restaurant.”
Initially, nevertheless, he was not satisfied S4S’ dehydrated onions could be the reply; he was involved that his regulars would inform the distinction in his gravy. But they didn’t.
“My chef tasted it, my staff tasted it, everyone said it was good,” he stated.
S4S believes that its mannequin of decreasing food loss is additionally ok for the remainder of the farming world.
Its merchandise at the moment are utilized in over 1,000,000 meals each day, and it is trying to develop the enterprise with mentorship from DBS Foundation.
“In every other (Indian) state, and even every other Third World country … there are also the same issues,” stated co-founder Ashwin Pawade, 33. “Their produce goes to waste due to a scarcity of processing.
The scale is enormous, and that’s how the potential for affect is additionally enormous.
PEELING BACK THE LAYERS
One nation that sees loads of food loss in the conventional supply chain is Indonesia. Here, contemporary produce passes by way of a number of layers, from farmers to village merchants to wholesalers to distributors and lastly to retailers.
Food is handed from hand to hand and squashed into vans.
“(The middlemen) pack 60kg of fruits in wooden boxes,” stated Firdaus. “If someone picks up 60kg of fruits in a wooden box, they’d pick it up slowly, but they’d put it down very fast.”
Not solely is harm attributable to poor dealing with akin to this, but additionally the transport of food can span a number of days, which implies extra time with out correct storage.
“It’s a fragmented sector, and most of the players are traditional, and they don’t have this cold storage,” stated Pamitra Wineka, the president of agri-tech start-up TaniHub Group.
“This is basically why … middlemen always take quite a big mark-up — because they also lose a certain amount.”
His resolution is to shorten the supply chain. In 2016, he and his co-founders set-up their firm to assist farmers promote contemporary produce by way of its business-to-business e-commerce platform, TaniHub.
It has 5 distribution hubs in Bandung, Bogor, Surabaya and Yogyakarta on the island of Java and in Bali. Goods go straight from the farms to these hubs, the place they’re sorted, and then to prospects.
“We can transport the goods as soon as possible,” stated Wineka. “(Customers) get their vegetables in a fresh condition, and we also don’t need to compensate for … waste shrinkage.”
TaniHub’s warehouses are outfitted with chilly storage services, with completely different temperatures appropriate for tropical fruits and which can be a lot decrease, for instance round eight levels Celsius for leafy greens.
To enhance productiveness, the firm constructed a packing and processing centre final yr in Malang, East Java, the place machines are used to wash, dry, wax and kind fruits.
With minimal human contact, there is even much less poor dealing with, and the processing time is additionally diminished.
“Your hands sometimes produce sweat, right? And it would ruin the quality of the goods,” stated Vincentius Sariyo, the director of TaniSupply, the firm’s supply chain providers unit.
“(The sorting camera) can take around 30 pictures of each fruit to see the blemishes … If there’s very damaged skin, it would go back and be re-sorted.”
The firm nonetheless helps farmers to promote “ugly” fruits, by discovering keen takers and thus decreasing food waste additional.
Food-maker Malang Strudel, for instance, doesn’t select its apples primarily based on the smoothness of the pores and skin. “We want fresh fruits. The fresh fruits have to also be delivered on time,” stated chief government officer Budi Sudarmono.
“The waste produced (before working with TaniHub) was around 10 to 15 per cent, but now there’s no more waste. The apples that we receive are good-quality apples. They’re all ready for production on our side.”
HELPING FARMERS REAP THE HARVEST
TaniHub additionally helps farmers by encouraging them to undertake finest practices. “We tell them, ‘Look, if you pile up (the produce), this is your rejection rate … (which) in the end will also lower the value of your product,’” stated Sariyo.
If you, for instance, divide (the transport) into two journeys … it implies that there’s extra likelihood for (you) to promote extra.
Food spoilage is not the solely main concern, nevertheless, in lengthy supply chains. Small-scale farmers have little to no contact with shoppers, in order that they have no idea how a lot to produce to match market demand.
For a lot of them, like Totok Harianto from Malang regency, that generally led to overproduction — and food waste.
During the year-end moist season, for instance, he often discovered that 40 to 50 per cent of his supply of pisang mas (a banana selection) “wasn’t absorbed by the market”.
“It’s really a waste because the quality was still good,” stated the 43-year-old.
Sariyo has seen some farmers even throw their crops into the river. “They’re frustrated,” stated the 45-year-old. “They say, ‘If I do the harvesting, the harvest cost is higher than my product (value).’”
That is why TaniHub is bridging the hole between farmers and shoppers by advising farmers on what, and how a lot, the market needs to allow them to higher plan their harvests.
“In helping to reduce food loss, of course we need to start … from the planning itself,” stated Sariyo. “After working with us, it’s proven that they can significantly reduce their food loss or waste (by) more than 95 per cent.”
Harianto has seen situations of oversupply “greatly decreasing” on his half, and appreciates the complementary function performed by TaniHub, which has partnered greater than 30,000 smallholder farmers.
With market readability offered by the firm, he additionally agreed to develop Honi pineapples just lately as a result of this selection is extra in demand. “I hope that by planting this new variety … we’ll be able to enjoy higher profits,” he stated.
HIGH-TECH SOLUTIONS FROM SINGAPORE
So when it comes to decreasing food supply leakages, it is clear that progressive expertise — to forestall food from going unhealthy rapidly — and minimising the variety of levels in the supply chain are two issues that make a distinction.
But the options might be discovered not simply in nations with an enormous agrarian sector. A rustic like Singapore can play an element too.
For instance, scientists at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology are taking silk from silkworm cocoons and turning them right into a coating that stops food from rotting. The materials is each water resistant and edible.
“It makes a barrier … that’s very thin, and it’s transparent. And the barrier is very good at keeping … micro-organisms out,” stated Benedetto Marelli from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and its analysis enterprise in Singapore.
”It lasts till you wash it away otherwise you’ve eaten (the food).”
It works “very well” on avocado, cherries, fish fillet, mango, meat and zucchini, in accordance to the assistant professor. “We know it works on strawberries and bananas from the early experiments. It works very well on leafy greens as well.”
He added: “This technology can have a big impact … in the region, (where) you don’t have the cold chain … while (food) passes from one hand to the other or when it’s exposed to bad weather.”
His crew is not the just one fascinated by the prospects for decreasing loss in the food supply chain.
Another group of scientists at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed a course of for turning pineapple leaves right into a low-cost aerogel that, when handled with energetic carbon powder, can hold food from rotting for at the least two weeks.
“This can be used for preserving vegetables and fruits during transportation,” identified NUS affiliate professor Duong Hai Minh.
Besides these sorts of applied sciences, shoppers and food and beverage companies may assist by shopping for regionally and, the place doable, sourcing produce from farmers instantly or from organisations that help them and have good practices, akin to TaniHub and S4S, which is a DBS Foundation grant awardee.
It may go a great distance in direction of altering the food trade for the higher.
This article by CNA Insider was executed in collaboration with DBS. To be taught extra about why we’d like to work collectively in direction of zero food waste and how DBS is elevating consciousness on this concern, click here.