Economics of Food Wastage
Food is considered as prasad in our Indian culture. It means that food is a divine gift to sustain living and existence. As usual, however lofty this ideal may seem, in reality, in practice, more often that not, one can see food being strewn around and wasted deliberately in marriage halls and restaurants.
I happened to visit few marriages and receptions in the last few days. Some of the families belong rich category and the rest middle class. Without any distinction as to the rich or middle the variety of foods made available to the guests were certainly many. Invariably, there were two sweets, followed by different varieties side dishes, main course of sambahar, rasam and curd and ending up with a desert of payasam. Of course, this is not to mention the venerable ice cream and pawn beeda.
Nowadays, there are two types of serving the food, the one being served and the second is the cafeteria approach that is self-service. It is in the first category a lot of food is wasted. Invariably, in the first course of food is served on the plate and then only guests are invited to sit for eating. Even if I do not intend to eat a sweet and wanted that to be taken off the plate, so that, it can be served to some one else, that is not possible. Our request to them turns a deaf ear. Still worse is the case of people opting for later course of the meal with the first course remaining intact in their plate.
Another case of food wastage in colossal proportion is the standard plate meals served in hotels and restaurants across the Chennai city. Every plate meal consists of a sweet (if it is a special one) one poriyal, one kootu, pappad, two varieties of pickles, dal with ghee or oil, unlimited rice or limited rice, sambar, rasam, butter milk, curd and close with ice cream and beeda. While this is a standard variety, there will be many more dishes if they are of different cuisine. For example, in Chennai, serving Bombay meals calls for serving rotis with suitable side dishes plus all that are provided in a Madras meals.
With self-sufficiency in food production, perhaps, our culture of diligent use of food underwent a change. About 50 years ago, we were a food-importing nation; more agonizing were the 60s when we had to beg for food before the USA and other nations. Of course, this led to the Green revolution. So, precarious the situation was, that for marriage, serving of food was restricted to 200 guests. There was even a Guest control order by the government. I was told that there used to be counting of banana leaves outside marriage halls by the government inspectors! Bulk purchase of rice and other essentials had to be applied for before the marriage by attaching the marriage invitation.
Self-sufficiency in production of food does not mean or result in proper equitable distribution of food to the needy. There are many millions in this country going without food or just little food every day. I just flipped through the statistics on the wastage of food in India, of course not to talk of the world.
- Indians waste as much food as consumed by the whole of United Kingdom.
- 40% of food produced in India is wasted
- 21 millions tons of wheat produced is wasted
- According to the Agriculture Ministry of the Government of India, food worth Rs.50000 crore is wasted annually in India.
- 25% of fresh water used to produce food goes waste. This quantity of water is equivalent of more than an average river. This is not to talk of shortage of drinking water to the millions.
- The no of hungry people has increased to more than 65 million. That is equivalent to the population of France.
- 7 million children died last year due to malnutrition.
- Acres of land are deforested to grow more food. 45% of land is degraded due to deforestation, unsustainable agriculture practices and more than required ground water usage to the meet demand in food.
I pondered over the situation. It is after all, it is some one’s money with which food is purchased or served. Does it mean that he can waste food, given the alarming food wastage and its consequences on the economy and ecology? My legal mind tells me every right comes with a duty. My right to food comes with it a duty to diligent consumption of it.
So, what do we do now?
01.Eat as much as you want, but do not waste it.
02.Remove right in the serving stage the unwanted food
03.Hotels and restaurants should be advised to reduce serving of food particularly it is of unlimited type.
– R.R. PADMANABHAN
PRINCIPAL CONSULTANT, EXIM CONSULTANTS