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The Reality of Food Losses: A New Measurement Methodology


  • Torero, M.
  • Schuster, M.
  • Delgado, L.


Measuring food loss, identifying where in the food system it occurs, and developing effective policies along the value chain are essential first steps toward addressing the problem in developing countries. Food loss have been defined in many ways, and disagreement remains over proper terminology and measurement methodology. Although the terms postharvest loss, food loss , and food waste are frequently used interchangeably, they do not refer to the same aspects of the problem. Also, none of these classifications includes preharvest losses. Consequently and despite its presumed importance, figures on food loss are highly inconsistent, precise causes for food loss remain undetected and success stories of decreasing food loss are few. We address this measurement gap by developing and testing three methodologies that assess the magnitude of food loss; we compare these against the methodology traditionally used. The methods account for losses from pre-harvest to distribution, and include quantity loss and quality deterioration. We apply the instrument to producers, middlemen and wholesalers in eight staple food value chains in six developing countries. Results suggest that losses are highest at the producer level and most product deterioration occurs previous to harvest. Traiditionally used self-reported measures seem to consistently underestimate the loss. Acknowledgement :

Suggested Citation

  • Torero, M. & Schuster, M. & Delgado, L., 2018. "The Reality of Food Losses: A New Measurement Methodology," 2018 Conference, July 28-August 2, 2018, Vancouver, British Columbia 277439, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:iaae18:277439
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.277439

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kaminski, Jonathan & Christiaensen, Luc, 2014. "Post-harvest loss in Sub-Saharan Africa -- what do farmers say ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6831, The World Bank.
    2. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David J. & Woodruff, Christopher, 2009. "Measuring microenterprise profits: Must we ask how the sausage is made?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1), pages 19-31, January.
    3. repec:oup:ajagec:v:99:y:2017:i:5:p:1148-1158. is not listed on IDEAS
    4. World Bank, 2011. "Missing Food : The Case of Postharvest Grain Losses in Sub-Saharan Africa," World Bank Other Operational Studies 2824, The World Bank.
    5. Buzby, Jean C. & Farah-Wells, Hodan & Hyman, Jeffrey, 2014. "The Estimated Amount, Value, and Calories of Postharvest Food Losses at the Retail and Consumer Levels in the United States," Economic Information Bulletin 164262, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    6. Venkat, Kumar, 2012. "The Climate Change and Economic Impacts of Food Waste in the United States," International Journal on Food System Dynamics, International Center for Management, Communication, and Research, vol. 2(4), pages 1-16, April.
    7. Gang Liu, 2014. "Food Losses and Food Waste in China: A First Estimate," OECD Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Papers 66, OECD Publishing.
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    Research Methods/ Statistical Methods;

    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • Q13 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Markets and Marketing; Cooperatives; Agribusiness
    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy

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