Food Loss and Waste Definitions and Measurement Issues: The Case of the Maize Sector in Mozambique

Meizal Popat, Garry Griffith, Oscar Cacho, Stuart Mounter


Current estimates point to food loss and waste as costing around $US 900 billion dollars a year. That is equivalent
to around one-third of global food production. The magnitude of this valuation, however, is reliant on the effective
measurement of the actual amount of food loss and waste. There are various definitions of this problem, which
differ in their scope. FAO, FUSION and WRI are the most prominent institutions that have proposed different
definitions of food loss and waste. All of these definitions have been at least partially criticized. Nonetheless, FAO’s
definition and methodology have been the basis for many studies attempting to quantify food loss and waste. FAO’s
methodology is based more on estimation rather than direct measurements. Taking the example of maize in
Mozambique, using FAO’s methodology to measure food loss and waste at the farm level seems to provide
estimates comparable to the available statistics from the national agricultural surveys. Di rect measurements on the
other hand, apart from being costly, seem to suffer from representativeness problems as highlighted by some
authors. Also, some of the direct measurement methods proposed by some authors seem to look at food loss and
waste as a static problem, rather than a dynamic problem that evolves over time. Regardless of the level where the
problem of food loss and waste occurs (upper or lower end of supply chains), it results in a deadweight loss for
society. That is demonstrated by a Marshallian supply and demand diagram.

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ISSN 2194-511X


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