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Something to chew on

The UAE imports 85% of the food it consumes. This includes temperature-sensitive fruit juices and meat.

| | Oct 14, 2012 | 5:59 pm
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B Surendar

B Surendar

The UAE imports 85% of the food it consumes. This includes temperature-sensitive fruit juices and meat. Considering it is a free trade market, it is well nigh impossible to subsidise some of the commodities, so these products come into the country at a considerable expense.

Since 2007, the UAE has seen its imports bill go up for prepared food products and beverages. It has increased from Dh 8.76 billion to Dh 12.28 billion in 2011. In view of that, food is a complex, socio-economic issue, involving the onerous task of ensuring food security and, at the same time, keeping a vigilant eye on the costs involved in procuring it.

Against this backdrop, it is quite alarming to note that an estimated 35% of the waste generated in the UAE consists of food that is discarded.

It is a moot point how much of the food wastage takes place owing to weak links in the cold chain during the farm/port-to-the-supermarket stage, as opposed to the waste generated by the consumer. Hand in hand with strengthening the links is the need for behavioural change and a culture that frowns hard at those that bite more than they can chew, there is no doubt about that.

Food wastage is a crime, period! While the economic ramifications are severe, the environmental impact is no less so. While considerable fossil fuel is expended in transporting the food to the consumer, equally worrying is the decomposing that occurs after food that is wasted is dumped in landfills. The process of decomposition produces methane, which is considered to be 20 times more harmful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

It is interesting to view the emissions against the backdrop of Round 2 of Refrigerants Review, which concluded on September 25. Among other issues, the conference examined the vexing subject of global warming.

But going back to ‘food crime’, the global figures are equally alarming and evoke a sense of dismay. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 1.3 billion tonnes of food are lost or wasted every year. This translates to one third of all the food that is produced in the world for human consumption. Of the 1.3 billion tonnes, 20% is for oilseeds, meat and dairy products and 30% for fish.

According to FAO, 65% of the losses occur at the production, post-harvest and processing stages. The challenges in front of the cold chain industry are of epic proportions.

– B Surendar

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