Rice miller urges campaign to cut food waste

  • 8 January 2016, Friday

Source: InterAksyon
28 Dec 2015

SANTIAGO CITY - Rice miller Herculano "Joji" Co has urged the government, and the private sector, to address the issue of food waste nationwide, "starting with cutting post-harvest losses to curbing the vice of leaving 30 percent of the food unconsumed on the table."

Co, longtime president of the Philippine Confederation of Grains Associations (Philcongrains), said that, by reducing post-harvest losses in rice farms, which is conservatively estimated at 10 percent annually, the country need not import rice from Vietnam and Thailand.

He pointed out that the cereal is a perishable commodity and it can lose its good eating quality in six months.

Co explained that it takes about two months for imports from Thailand and Vietnam to be collected, shipped and then delivered to the National Food Authority (NFA), so this means that the grains agency only has four months with which to turn over the stock to consumers.

Beyond six months, rice deteriorates, particularly grain that has been bombarded with herbicides, pesticides and nematicides, and which could even be heavy with arsenic.

Aside from losing 10 percent during post-harvest, government estimates the rice wastage to be anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent, Co noted. "This might look better compared to the 33.3 percent in food waste at the dinner tables, but is still significant, considering the fact that more than 23% of the Philippine population is dirt-poor.

"While the poor used to eat rice with their hands, they now have to use spoons since the rice they consume is actually porridge," Co stressed.

One option to reduce rice wastage at the dinner table is to cut back on rice consumption and increase the share of vegetables, fish and meat that can be produced in rice farms nationwide, he argued.

This option was proposed by former Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) executive director Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco during a lecture at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) in November.

Co said the Rasco system involves the use of rice paddies as fish ponds, where ducks could also be raised, along with the cultivation of mongo, sweet potato, cabbage, pechay and lentils to provide a more rounded selection of nutrients to the diet.

"What we now see is the heavy consumption of rice by a huge segment of the population, with people adding soy sauce of patis and salt as substitute to the viand. This, of course, is unhealthy," Co rued.

While the poor are making do with unhealthy meals, Co said, those who can afford to spend also tend to throw more kitchen waste into the garbage bin.

The turnover in wasted food alone, Co stressed, accounts for 7% of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions based on an estimate made by the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Wasted food, studies by the University of the Philippines at Los Baños (UPLB) revealed, accounts for the loss of 25 percent of calories and 25 percent of the water used in food production.

Co said that Filipino food chains, restaurants and food processors, along with supermarkets, wet markets and other institutions, would do well "to promote a diet that is ethical, healthy and ecologically-sustainable."