Jakarta. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Indonesia is the world's second largest food waster, squandering nearly 300 kilograms of food per person each year.
The research unit within the Economist Group revealed in a 2016 study that Indonesia needs to revamp infrastructure and raise awareness among consumers to curb rising food wastage. The study, titled "Fixing Food: Towards a More Sustainable Food System," found that only Saudi Arabia is worse than Indonesia in food waste.
Other big wasters are the United States, which squanders nearly 277 kilograms of food per capita each year, and the United Arab Emirates, wasting 196 kilograms per person annually.
The high rate of food loss in Indonesia, an energy specialist says, could be due to inadequate infrastructure between food producing regions and major population centers, which causes delays in food transportation.
"There are issues in the supply chains, where we often encounter problems regarding the durability of food products [...] as they enter the market or reach customers," Aretha Aprilia, a renewable energy specialist at engineering company CDM Smith, told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday (06/07).
The EIU report also indicates the infrastructure issues, noting that Indonesia has undertaken steps to address post-harvest food loss, but they are "not comprehensive along the supply chain," the EIU said.
Indonesia, for example, has a cold storage capacity of only 200,000 tons of food, while this year it needs at least 1.7 million tons — 30 percent more than two years ago — according to an estimation from consulting firm Supply Chain Indonesia.
Indonesian consumers may also be to blame. Aretha's past study indicated that more than half of Jakarta's household waste was kitchen waste, which decomposes producing methane, one of the gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect and climate change.
The fact that Indonesians waste so much food is ironic as millions in the country suffer from malnutrition — 7.6 percent of the 260 million population, according to the EIU report. In this regard, Indonesia is only better than Ethiopia (32 percent) and India (15.2 percent).
More than 36 percent of Indonesian children under five suffer from stunting — reduced growth due to prolonged malnutrition, the report showed. About 14 percent of the kids suffer from an acute loss of muscle mass.
The EIU report recommends that the government start imposing fines on food wasters or offer incentives for households and businesses that make use of recoverable edible food for human consumption, animal feed, industrial uses, and anaerobic digestion and composting.
Infrastructure improvement is also essential in avoiding more food waste. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration already prioritizes infrastructure development, with toll roads and ports being built across the country. The government is also going to open the cold storage sector to foreign investors to accelerate its growth.
According to Aretha, knowledge is important as well. Indonesian farmers should be taught how to store their produce properly to avoid premature expiration.
"Consumers should also be made aware of the need to prevent food waste. In Japan and Thailand, some buffet restaurants require the customers to take only as much as they can eat and to impose if food is taken but not consumed," Aretha said.