Key Findings

  • Research on food loss and waste in India is mainly focused on the quantity of post-harvest loss.
  • The existing data on losses are not comparable due to differences in measurement metrics. Hotspots and critical loss points in food supply chains need to be identified using a standardized approach.
  • Empirical research on food waste is very scarce. Data on food waste at household level is almost nonexistent.
  • The social, economic, and environmental aspects of food loss and waste in India are largely unexplored. Gender-disaggregated research on food loss and waste is neither available nor considered in improving technology or in solutions for its management.

Executive Summary

Reducing food loss and waste is recognized globally as an opportunity to address food and nutrition insecurity and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while also advancing economic development. The recent EAT-Lancet Commissions’ report (EAT 2019) identifies large reductions in food loss and waste as a crucial dimension of sustainable food systems in order to achieve healthy diets for 10 billion people by 2050. The significance of reducing food loss and waste for improving social, economic, and environment outcomes is also recognized in Target 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which calls for reducing food loss and halving food waste by 2030. In recognition of its importance, significant strategies have been developed to minimize food loss and waste at the global level.

The paper presents the results of a systematic analysis of 106 peer-reviewed and gray literature publications, as well as consultations with sectoral experts. This study was undertaken by the World Resources Institute India (WRI India) and the Food and Land Use (FOLU) Coalition’s India platform to understand the magnitude of, and identify the hotspots and critical loss points of food loss and waste in India; identify the strategies and interventions implemented to date; highlight the gaps in research, policy, and practice; and suggest some next steps.

The paper highlights significant gaps in research, policy, and practice which need to be addressed systematically to manage food loss and waste in India. We outline some practical recommendations for moving forward:

  • Adopting a standard metric for estimating food loss and waste will help generate comparable data from different studies across time and geographies and hence will be more useful for decision-makers, the private sector, and civil society. The global Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard developed by the FLW Protocol could be adopted in India.
  • Put the issue of food loss and waste on the research agenda at all levels in India. The research agenda needs to include estimation of food waste nationally, as well as the social, economic, and environmental impact of food loss and waste.
  • Create awareness and mobilize a movement for reducing food loss and waste in India that embraces diverse stakeholders.
  • Set up a multi-stakeholder action coalition to:
    • foster collaboration and partnerships to manage food loss and waste,
    • prioritize the research agenda on food loss and waste in India,
    • develop strategies and mobilize action, and
    • support policy development and implementation for sustainable food and land-use systems.