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Biting off more than we can chew

Updated: 2016-06-16 07:50
By Xu Wei (China Daily)

Trend irreversible

Food is also being lost outside the commercial catering sector. In a 2013 interview, Ren Zhengxiao, head of the State Administration of Grain, said 35 million tons of grain is lost every year during transportation, storage and processing.

Poor storage facilities, which resulted in deterioration and loss from scavengers, resulted in the loss of 20 million tons of food, while poor transportation methods - such as horse drawn carriages and tricycles - and the inadequate packaging used by many farmers resulted in the loss of about 7.5 million tons of grain.

Fan Shenggen, director-general of the International Food Policy Research Institute, said more food is lost during the processing and storage stages than during retailing or consumption.

Wastage and preventable loss of food are especially disturbing because China still has 150 million people living on the breadline, and child malnutrition is still a big challenge. Nearly 10 percent of Chinese children were classified as "stunted", he said.

Cheng said that even with the government's best efforts to cut food wastage, the increase in the trend over the next decade could be irreversible.

"In China, a large proportion of food wastage takes place in the catering sector. That is exactly the opposite of Western countries, where wastage generally takes place at home and in the retail sector," he said.

"Food wastage in China is different from in Western countries in that it takes place more often in households and supermarkets. In the future, we expect to see more waste occurring in families and in retailing as more people move to the cities," he said.

The high rate of wastage in the catering sector was also highlighted by research led by Liu Junguo, a professor at Beijing Forestry University, who found that the rate is 5 percent in canteens and 7 percent in homes, but jumps to 19 percent in restaurants.

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