Poor storage blamed for huge food losses

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 July, 2012, 12:00am


Improper storage costs the mainland as much as 12 per cent of its annual grain production and 20 per cent of its potato and fruit yields, one senior agriculture official has said, although some academics contend that the figures are exaggerated.

Zhang Tianzuo, the Ministry of Agriculture's farm produce processing director, said that more than 25 million tonnes of grain, or 8 to 12 per cent of the nation's production, was lost every year, The Beijing News reported yesterday.

'More than half of the grain is dried and stored by farmers or local agricultural associations, who have only limited processing facilities and inadequate technology, greatly reducing the quality of farm produce,' Zhang said at an agricultural forum on Tuesday.

Additionally, the ministry estimates that 15 to 20 per cent of the country's potatoes and fruit are lost due to improper storage. In total, the annual economic losses involving agricultural produce total more than 300 billion yuan (HK$366 billion), the newspaper reported.

Globally, roughly one-third of the food produced for human consumption gets lost or wasted every year, according to a report released last year by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

The central government said earlier this year that it would allocate 500 million yuan to subsidise new storage and drying facilities for potatoes and fruit in 11 provinces, including Hebei , Henan and Jilin .

But agricultural economics Professor Zheng Fengtian, of Renmin University, said the grain-loss ratio has long been controversial and that most experts put it at 5 per cent. The ministry may have overstated the figures to lobby for more subsidies, Zheng said.