Food Wastage in India


  • Food wastage is fast assuming serious dimensions; it needs to be fully understood, so that an effective strategy can be drawn up.


  • Even though the world produces enough food to feed twice the world’s present population, food wastage is ironically behind the billions of people who are malnourished.
  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), One third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year.
  • In the context of India, the country ranked 97th among 118 countries in the Global Hunger Index for 2016. About 20 crore people go to bed hungry and 7,000 people die of hunger every day.

The massive loss:

  • Food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain, from initial agricultural production to final household consumption.
  • The food loss represents a waste of resources used in production such as land, water, energy and inputs, increasing the green gas emissions in vain.
  • The increasing wastage also results in land degradation by about 45%, mainly due to deforestation, unsustainable agricultural practices, and excessive groundwater extraction.
  • Wastage results in national economic loss too. To put a monetary value to the loss in terms of wastage.
  • Food waste emissions have a major impact on climate change and result in greater carbon footprint.



  • The 1996 Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act in the U.S. intended to encourage donation of food and grocery products that meet quality and labeling standards by protecting the donor and the recipient agency against liability.
  • France is the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from destroying unsold food, forcing them instead to donate it to charities or food banks or send it to the farmers to be used as fertilisers in crop production.
  • In 2001, Japan enacted a ‘Food Wastage Law.’ Initially, the law encouraged businesses to create cyclical manufacturing processes that would reduce food waste, reuse their food waste, and recycle any leftover waste and it was later revised in 2007 to encourage businesses to turn their waste into compost or animal feed.
  • Institutions in Canada are recovering unused and unspoiled food from retailers, manufacturers, restaurants and caterers and sending them to charities

In India:

  • The government is committed to secure availability of food grains for two-thirds of the 1.3 billion populations, under the National Food Security Act, 2013.
  • There are initiatives such as India Food Banking Network (IFBN), which is promoting the concept of collaborative consumption with support from the private sector and civil society organisations.
  • The government is building 42 ‘mega food parks’ across the country to give a push to the processing industry.
  • The idea behind these food parks is to provide adequate and appropriate storage facilities as well processing food, to preserve it and elongate its shelf-life.
  • The recent development of Aadhar UIDAI cards has taken up the challenge of solving the problem of identification and distribution of PDs services along with Direct Cash Transfers.


  • Investments in better storage facilities and an overall tightening of the supply chain can go a long way in preventing massive food wastage.
  • The government can create a time-bound task force under Niti Aayog, with experts from different sectors, to frame a national policy.
  • The national policy can tackle this gigantic issue of food wastage, which can recommend the legal framework to support initiatives to reduce food loss and waste.
  • The Government can speed up research in Nano technology with the help of which eco-friendly and healthy food preservation applications can be invented that are helpful in preserving food for longer duration and keeping farm produce fresh.

Public Distribution System

  • Public Distribution System(PDS) is an Indian food security system which is established on June 1947, by the Government of India under Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution and is managed jointly by state governments in India.
  • Public distribution system is a structure that is sponsored by a government and includes chain of shops trusted with the work of distributing basic food and non-food commodities to the disadvantaged group of the society at very low prices.


  • The Indian central and state governments shared the accountability of regulating the Public distribution system.
  • The central government is responsible for procurement, storage, transportation, and bulk allocation of food grains while the state governments hold the responsibility for distributing the same to the consumers through the established system of Fair Price Shops.
  • The State governments are also responsible for operational responsibilities including allocation and identification of families below poverty line, issue of ration cards, supervision and monitoring the functioning of FPSs system (PDS) is an Indian food security system.

Public distribution system flow: Objective:

  • Making available sufficient quantities of essential commodities at all times, in places accessible to all, at prices affordable to all and protection of the weaker section of the population from the malicious spiral of rising prices is prime objective of Public Distribution System.

Major goals of public distribution system are as under:

  • Make goods available to consumers, especially the disadvantaged /vulnerable sections of society at fair prices.
  • Rectify the existing imbalances between the supply and demand for consumer goods. Check and prevent hoarding and black marketing in essential commodities.
  • Ensure social justice in distribution of basic necessities of life.
  • Even out fluctuations in prices and availability of mass consumption goods.
  • Support poverty-alleviation programmes, particularly, rural employment programmes, (SGRY/SGSY/IRDP/ Mid-day meals, ICDS, DWCRA, SHGs and Food for Work and educational feeding programmes.

Functions: Procurement of Food Grains:

  • The food grains offered to recipients under TPDS (Targeted Public Distribution System) are procured from agrarians at MSP.
  • The MSP is the price at which the FCI purchases the crop directly from farmers; typically the MSP is higher than the market price. This is intended to provide price support to farmers and incentivize production.

Identification of poor and needy:

  • The centre and states identify eligible BPL (Below Poverty Line) households through a detailed process.

Issue of ration cards to poor people:

  • A Ration Card is a file issued under an order or authority of the State Government, as per the Public Distribution System, for the purchase of essential commodities from Fair Price Shops.


  • Besides the food grains requirement for immediate distribution under targeted public distribution system, the central government maintains minimum buffer reserves of food stocks for emergencies.

Allocation of food grains to states:

  • The central government allocates food grains from the central pool to the state governments for distribution to BPL, AAY (Antyodaya Anna Yojana) and APL families.

Fair price shop (Ration Shops):

  • Fair Price Shops (FPS) is called a ration shops in general way.
  • In these centers, the consumer gets a Ration Card on the basis of which he is given food grains.

Problems of PDS in India:

  • There are growing instances of the consumers receiving inferior quality food grains in ration shops.
  • Deceitful dealers replace good supplies received from the F.C.I (Food Corporation of India) with inferior stock and sell FCI stock in the black market.
  • Many FPS (Fair Price Shop) dealers resort to malpractice, illegal diversions of commodities, holding and black marketing due to the minimum salary received by them.
  • Identification of households to be denoted status and distribution to granted PDS services has been highly irregular and diverse in various states.
  • There are no set criteria as to which family is BPL (Below Poverty Line) and which APL (Above Poverty Line) is.
  • This non ambiguity gives massive scope for corruption and fallouts in PDS systems because those who are actually meant to be benefitted are not able to taste the fruits of PDS.
  • Several schemes have augmented the number of people aided by PDS, but the number is extremely low. Poor supervision of FPS and lack of accountability have spurred middlemen who consume a good proportion of the stock meant for the poor.
  • The stock assigned to a single family cannot be bought in installments. This is a decisive barrier to the efficient functioning and overall success of PDS in India. Many BPL families are not able to acquire ration cards either because they are seasonal migrant workers or because they live in unauthorized colonies. Jadeveon Clowney – South Carolina Gamecocks A lot of families also mortgage their ration cards for money.


  • TPDS (Targeted Public Distribution System), targeting around 400 million people and budgeted around for Rs.25,000 crore annually, is affected by targeting errors (both inclusion and exclusion errors), spurious beneficiaries, diversion and pilferage and even location specific availability.
  • A white paper should be prepared on the procedure for selection of BPL, and clear policy should be laid down by the Ministry of Rural Development.
  • FPS (Fair Price Shop) should be allotted to people who are already running a viable shop in the area. This will ensure that the shop remains open on all working days.
  • Procedural and policy reforms should be encouraged.
  • Banking and Information technologies have advanced rapidly and should enable governments to bring transparency and speed in all applications without extra expenditure.
  • In addition, computerisation can help in modernizing the PDS. A number of states are already innovating in PDS implementation, and improved performance can be seen in some cases.
  • Although the introduction of modern tools such as smart cards may not be the ultimate solution for all the evils, it can solve many of the problems.


  • There is an urgent need to understand the complexity of the food wastage problem and then to devise a national-level strategy to combat it so that surplus of food can be turned into an advantage instead of resulting in wastage.
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