Worldwide food waste

Nearly 1/2 of all fruit & vegetables produced globally are wasted each year – UN

United States of America

In the United States 30 per cent of all food, worth US$48.3 billion (€32.5 billion), is thrown away each year. It is estimated that about half of the water used to produce this food also goes to waste, since agriculture is the largest human use of water.

Losses at the farm level are probably about 15–35 per cent, depending on the industry. The retail sector has comparatively high rates of loss of about 26 per cent, while supermarkets, surprisingly, only lose about 1 per cent. Overall, losses amount to around US$90 billion–US$100 billion a year (Jones, 2004 cited in Lundqvist et al., 2008).

The food currently lost or wasted in Latin America could feed 300 million people (FAO, 2013).


United Kingdom households waste an estimated 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, around one third of the 21.7 million tonnes purchased. This means that approximately 32 per cent of all food purchased per year is not eaten. Most of this (5.9 million tonnes or 88 per cent) is currently collected by local authorities. Most of the food waste (4.1 million tonnes or 61 per cent) is avoidable and could have been eaten had it been better managed (WRAP, 2008; Knight and Davis, 2007).
The food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people (FAO, 2013).


In a survey of more than 1,600 households in Australia in 2004, on behalf of the Australia Institute, it was concluded that on a country-wide basis, $10.5 billion was spent on items that were never used or thrown away. This amounts to more that $5,000 per capita/year.


Inefficient processing and drying, poor storage and insufficient infrastructure are instrumental factors in food waste in Africa. In Sub-Saharan Africa post harvest food losses are estimated to be worth US $ 4 billion per year - or enough to feed at least 48 million people.

In many African countries, the post-harvest losses of food cereals are estimated at 25 per cent of the total crop harvested. For some crops such as fruits, vegetables and root crops, being less hardy than cereals, post-harvest losses can reach 50 per cent (Voices Newsletter, 2006). In East Africa economic losses in the dairy sector due to spoilage and waste could average as much as US$90 million/year (FAO, 2004). In Kenya, around 95 million litres of milk, worth around US$22.4 million, are lost each year.

Cumulative losses in Tanzania amount to about 59.5 million liters of milk each year, over 16 per cent of total dairy production during the dry season and 25 per cent in the wet season. In Uganda, approximately 27 per cent of all milk produced is lost, equivalent to US$23 million/year (FAO, 2004).
The food currently lost in Africa could feed 300 million people. (FAO, 2013)


Statistics show that China wastes 50 million tonnes of grain annually, accounting for one-tenth of the country's total grain output. It is also estimated that enough food to feed 200 million people, about one-sixth of the country's population, goes to waste annually.

Losses for cereals and oil seeds are lower, about 10–12 per cent, according to the Food Corporation of India. Some 23 million tonnes of food cereals, 12 million tonnes of fruits and 21 million tonnes of vegetables are lost each year, with a total estimated value of 240 billion Rupees. A recent estimate by the Ministry of Food Processing is that agricultural produce worth 580 billion Rupees is wasted in India each year (Rediff News, 2007 cited in Lundqvist et al., 2008).

Key Findings

  • Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year - approximately 1.3 billion tonnes - gets lost or wasted.
  • Food losses and waste amounts to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialized countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries.
  • Industrialized and developing countries dissipate roughly the same quantities of food - respectively 670 and 630 million tonnes.
  • Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.
  • Global quantitative food waste per year are roughly 30 per cent for cereals, 40-50 per cent for root crops, fruits and vegetables, 20 per cent for oil seeds, meat and dairy plus 30 per cent for fish.
  • Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
  • The amount of food wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world's annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).
  • Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeastern Asia, each throw away only 6-11 kg a year.
  • Total per capita food production for human consumption is about 900 kg a year in rich countries, almost twice the 460 kg a year produced in the poorest regions.
  • In developing countries 40 per cent of losses occur at post-harvest and processing levels while in industrialized countries more than 40 per cent of losses happen at retail and consumer levels.
  • At retail level, large quantities of food are wasted due to quality standards that over-emphasize appearance.
  • Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labor and capital and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change.
  • Even if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.
  • In developing countries food waste occur mainly at early stages of the food value chain and can be traced back to financial, managerial and technical constraints in harvesting techniques as well as storage and cooling facilities. Strengthening the supply chain through the direct support of farmers and investments in infrastructure, transportation, as well as in an expansion of the food and packaging industry could help to reduce the amount of food loss and waste.
  • In medium and high-income countries, food is wasted and lost mainly at later stages in the supply chain. Differing from the situation in developing countries, the behavior of consumers plays a huge part in industrialized countries. The study identified a lack of coordination between actors in the supply chain as a contributing factor. Farmer-buyer agreements can be helpful to increase the level of coordination. Additionally, raising awareness among industries, retailers and consumers as well as finding beneficial use for food that is presently thrown away are useful measures to decrease the amount of losses and waste.