Improved awareness, appropriate policies, and a strong regulatory framework are needed to reduce food waste in West Asia, according to a new report, The State of Food Waste in West Asia, released by the UN Environment Programme’s Regional Office for West Asia.
The report, conducted in 12 countries in the region, sets out a comprehensive view of the current situation across the region, in which around 34% of the food served is wasted, with an estimation ranging from 100 to 150kg/cap of food waste occurring at the household stage, similar to levels in Western Europe and North America.
Countries in the region have unique cultural habits generating significant amounts of food waste over short periods. For instance, during the month of Ramadan, research shows that between 25% and 50% of the food prepared is wasted. The report also elaborates on the outcomes of a survey to assess the attitudes and behaviors that determine food waste in the region.
Collecting data on national food loss and food waste is key to understanding the scale of the problem, target hotspots, and assess policy actions. The report flagged that several countries in the region need consistent support in setting food waste baselines: only the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has conducted a national food loss and waste baseline led by the Saudi Grains Organisation in 2019.
“This report is aligned with international efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goal 12 (SDG 12), which seeks to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. Target 12.3 calls for halving per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level. Given the considerable amount of wasted food annually and its repercussions on food security, the environment, the economy, natural resources, and livelihoods, our report sheds light on food waste in West Asia,” said Sami Dimassi, Regional Director and Representative for UNEP in West Asia.
“Our regional office is committed to supporting countries in filling the gaps and scaling up initiatives that have been successfully implemented at the local level through a regional program soon to be discussed with all the countries in the region,” he added.
The Food Waste report also highlights the potential of promoting sustainable lifestyles and empowering youth to positively impact at the consumer level, raising awareness on the consequences on the environment, economy, and food security, as well as promoting gender-inclusive strategies across the food value chain.