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5 Feb, 2013

China’s anti-food waste campaign revives frugality


BEIJING, 2013-02-03 (Xinhua)  – A campaign against food waste is sweeping across China, with government officials and netizens in full swing to fight extravagance in the world’s second-largest economy, which still has 128 million people living under the poverty line.

The movement echoes Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s call for frugal lifestyles, urging the fine Chinese tradition of “being diligent and thrifty.” In an age of excessive consumption and deficit spending, China’s frugality campaign is also setting an example for the world.

A campaign launched more recently by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) coincided with China’s efforts, taking the lifestyle issue to the center stage.

Called the “Think, Eat, Save and Reduce your footprint,” the initiative appeals to consumers and retailers to embrace innovative measures that could dramatically reduce food waste at all levels.

According to data released by the FAO, about one third of all food produced globally and worth $1 trillion is lost or wasted in the production and consumption systems.

Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the FAO, said the 300 million tonnes of food squandered each year in the industrialized world would be sufficient to feed an estimated 870 million people hungry in the world.

Figures show that there are more than one billion people living without enough food, 10 million of which die from hunger each year.

“In a world of seven billion people, set to grow to nine billion by 2050, wasting food makes no sense, economically, environmentally and ethically,” said Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary-general and UNEP executive director.

Ma Xiaohe, deputy chief of the Academy of Macro-economic Research with the National Development and Reform Commission, said as the world’s largest developing country, China’s food saving feeds into global frugality.

Research by China Agricultural University in 2008 put China’s annual food waste at 50 million tonnes, one-tenth of the country’s total grain output.

UNEP spokesman Nick Nuttal also said China’s contribution is critical to help the world cut down on food waste or loss.

Food supply has long been a thorny problem in the world’s most populous country. Even now, China is still facing challenges in food supply, with national requirements that see only seven percent of the total arable land on Earth feeding 22 percent of its population.

Having just witnessed a ninth consecutive year of rising grain output, China’s total grain output in 2012 reached nearly 590 million tonnes.

However, experts have warned that greater threats loom large, as China imports more and more grain from abroad due to people’s improved living standards.

Han Jun, vice director of the Development Research Center of the State Council, said on Tuesday that China’s self-sufficiency rate on grain has plunged below 90 percent, a warning sign that the nation may have a food security issue.

The Chinese government sets a 95-percent bottom line on its grain self-sufficiency rate, according to a white paper on China’s food security.

“If good results are achieved in China’s frugality campaign, the import of grain and edible oil can be saved for 100 million people each year,” said Zheng Fengtian, a professor with Renmin University of China. “It is also good news for easing the world food crisis,” the academic added.