Food Losses in Vietnam: The shocking reality

August 10, 2018

Food loss and waste is a major issue worldwide with deep socio-economic and environmental impacts. In Vietnam Latest figures will reveal that, on average, a quarter of the harvested food is lost before it actually reaches processing plants or distribution centers. The total average loss and waste would reach more than a half of what is produced.

 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) stated that around one-third of all food that is produced in the world is lost or wasted, which represents 1.3 billion tons of food per year or US$ 990 billion in economic losses. Food losses occur during production, post-harvesting (handling, storage, and transportation) and processing stages of the food supply chain, whereas food waste is generated by retailers’ activities and consumers’ behavior.

Food loss and waste comparison

 

In Vietnam, according the CEL survey from major agricultural regions, during the first quarter of 2018, on average, a quarter of the food produced is lost before it actually reaches processing plants or distribution centers (5% higher than FAO SSA results). Total losses are estimated at 8.8 million ton or US$ 3.9 billion (2% of Vietnam GDP; 12% of Vietnam Agriculture GDP). Considering that Vietnam has 117,100 km of agricultural land, a 25% loss represents 29,696 km2, which is 9% of total Vietnam. Extrapolating to Vietnam the SSA region benchmark for food loss during processing activities and for food waste, the total average loss and waste for Vietnam would reach more than a half of what is produced.

 

The fruits and vegetable group accounts for the worst food loss percentage (32% of production) with approximately 7.3 million ton lost per year. For the meat industry, losses reach 14% (roughly 694 thousand ton per year). In the fish and seafood group, losses represent 12% of production (about 804 thousand ton per year).

Agricultural production and postharvest handling, storage, and transportation losses for Vietnam (% and estimate in million ton) and FAO results for South-Southeast Asia (%).

 

Food losses and wastes put in danger the current vast availability of fresh goods in Vietnam. Additionally, this phenomenon could lead to quickly raising prices thus preventing the more modest consumers to access fresh food on a daily basis. Besides altering the local culinary culture over time, it would also have a devastating impact on obesity, which already reaches alarming levels for children in main cities.

 

“One of the most impacting steps to reduce food losses in Vietnam is the establishment of strong farmer’s cooperatives to cope with the complexity that arises from farmers’ fragmentation. Such associations could benefit from increased credit access and from taking the initiative to develop mutualized networks composed of collection facilities and vehicles. Well-coordinated, this agro supply network would allow much lower operating costs, better absorption of seasonal peaks, balance more easily demand and supply gaps, and thus reducing premature harvesting and post-harvesting food losses. “- Julien Brun, CEL Consulting’s CEO.

 

From a supply chain standpoint, the difficulty resides in the need to involve all agro-chain actors from “the farm to the chopsticks” together with government bodies to define a common objective and practically tackle the problem with legal, technical and training/sensitisation efforts. This challenge seems almost impossible given the numbers of small businesses involved in the industry. But given the stakes at play, the difficulty to initiate a change is not an excuse anymore. Much is to do to reduce food loss in Vietnam, raising awareness on the matter is the critical first step.

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