Horticultural exports make up 23% of Kenya’s GDP, the country’s greatest foreign exchange earner
A NEW report has been released detailing the amount of food waste happening in Kenya and the figures are staggering. Feedback Global found that, despite there being no problem in quality or taste, on average nearly 50% of produce is being rejected by European retailers before export with on average over 30% of food being rejected at farm-level.
Considering horticultural exports make up 23% of Kenya’s GDP, the country’s leading foreign exchange earner, it is an enormous economic loss. It also causes a great deal of turbulence to the 4.5 million people it directly employs and the 3.5 million it indirectly supports through trade and related activities.
The industry suffers from two types of extreme waste: imposed cosmetic specifications - supermarkets only buy fruits and vegetables that fit demanding size, shape and colour specifications – and last minute order cancellations. These cancellation adjustments are a form of unfair trading practice resulting, more often than not, in large amounts being dumped.
As a result, huge amounts of fruit and vegetables (the second and third most important exports in this sub-sector after flowers) are being wasted and farmers have reported being forced into cycles of debt as a result of uncompensated order cancellations.
The food sometimes doesn’t even go back into the local markets and is deemed “unsellable”, at times relegated to becoming animal feed. Products like mangetout, sugar snap peas, and French beans are not regarded as culturally appropriate food in Kenya. These products are seen as foods grown solely for export and are not generally eaten by the local population due a difference in local palettes.
Wasted valuable resources
The loss of these huge amounts of food results in high levels of wasted resources such as land, waste, energy, agri-chemicals and fuel.
But Kenya is certainly not the only African country suffering from this issue. Even though sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, affecting about one in four people, between 30% to 40% of food produced on the continent for human consumption is lost or wasted.
The situation in North Africa, and the near-East, is equally astounding. Even though the region relies on imports to meet over 50% of its food needs, it loses up to a third of the food it produces and imports. This includes about 14-19% of its grains, 26% of all fish and seafood, 13% of its meat, and 45% of all fruits and vegetables.
Food waste for cosmetic reasons is common across the continent but there are also vast quantities of food “loss”. Food loss refers to food that gets spoilt along the supply chain and in sub-Saharan Africa, food loss per capita is estimated at 120-170 kg/year.
But there is hope in fighting food waste. Thanks to a new law, supermarkets can be hit with huge fines of up to 1% of their turnover if UK supermarkets cancel orders on their suppliers with no compensation.