World Cold Chain Summit aims to reduce food losses (Part 2)

Carrier’s fourth annual World Cold Chain Summit to Reduce Food Loss took to Vietnam in March and during its first session, the three keynote talks focused on food loss and waste… (Read Part 1 for more info on the event.) 

C006A group shot of everyone who attended the event in Vietnam.

Keynote sessions

The first session of the day covered three keynote talks on food loss and waste (FLW) and agricultural issues in Asia and Vietnam. Dr Tony Shih-Hsun Hsu, professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, National Taiwan University, started this segment with an overview of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), a forum which encompasses 21 economies from the Pacific Rim that promote free trade, and their efforts on food loss and waste reduction.

Dr Hsu noted that reducing food losses has been “repeatedly underscored as one of the primary tasks” to safeguarding the food security of APEC economies. Impressively, APEC nations have set a near-term goal to reduce food loss and waste by 10% by 2020 compared to 2011-2012 levels. APEC economies are engaged in a multi-year project to strengthen public-private partnerships to reduce food loss and waste in the supply chain by identifying key issues to be addressed, seeking best practices in the private and public sectors, and finding practical solutions while enhancing capacity-building. They seek to understand food loss and waste through three lenses – systemic (viewing food loss and waste as an integral part of the food system), sustainability (social, environmental, and economic dimensions), and food security (a focus on human consumption).

Dr Hsu stated that the APEC economies are using the FAO-methodology to address food loss and waste at all levels of the food supply chain – from production and harvest to consumption. He pointed to high loss percentages of fruits, vegetables, fish and meat in the pre-consumption stage due to the lack of adequate cold chain infrastructure and noted that they are using resources such as the ReFED report to view costs and benefits of interventions (with a focus on ‘no regret’ options – ie. only winners, no losers).

C004Speakers and delegates networking at the dinner event.

In addition, he displayed summary results in cost-benefit format for a 10% reduction in APEC food loss and waste, noting positive net annual economic value, substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption, and sharp increases in meals recovered and jobs created. In closing, he stressed the APEC economies’ commitment to 10% food loss and waste (FLW) reduction now, while a call to action for the 50% reduction goal specified in UN sustainable development goals (SDG) target 12.3 will occur at a June conference in Taipei.

Julien Brun, managing partner, CEL Consulting, a firm specialising in emerging supply chains, followed with preliminary survey results quantifying food loss in Vietnam. Brun gave a broad “flyover” of the farming sector in Vietnam, noting that some 42% of its population (of 92 million) is engaged at some level in the food chain, representing 18% of GDP. He also noted that the average size of farms is small (ex. 0.4 hectares for the average fruit farm), the food supply chain is fragmented, and there is considerable room to improve efficiency and traceability. He stressed a key aspect of food in Vietnam – It is predominantly ‘fresh’ while processed food is limited – and with the absence of an extensive cold chain, perishability is high.

Brun’s survey of 150 farmers revealed that 32% of fruits and vegetables, 14% of meat, and 12% of fish and seafood products failed to reach market due to spoilage, leading him to conclude that nearly 60% of food produced in Vietnam is not consumed. Despite these losses, Brun found that only 14% of surveyed food chain actors (farmers, collectors, distributors) make use of a cold chain, resulting in substantial lost revenue, lost time, wasted water, and greenhouse gas emissions. In terms of land use, Brun estimates that 11% of Vietnam’s land is used to produce food that is not consumed – an area roughly the size of North Carolina. He summarised by urging collective action to address the structural issues behind these numbers.

C010Julien Brun, managing partner, CEL Consulting, a firm specialising in emerging supply chains, shared preliminary survey results quantifying food loss in Vietnam.

Nguyen Duc Loc, acting director of Southern Centre of Agriculture Policy and Strategy (SCAP) / Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD) gave the third keynote address, discussing issues in development of the agri-cold chain in modern Vietnam. Loc started with positive factors related to agriculture in Vietnam, including recent high growth rates, supply surplus, and a sharp increase in trade as the country’s agricultural sector has been rapidly integrated into the world economy through the addition of free trade agreements (now 12 with 56 countries). He then cited several challenges facing the sector, including a weakening of growth and competitiveness (due to small scale, scattered production, negative impacts of climate change, and strong competition associated with international integration), low development of supporting industries (for example, Vietnam’s food retail network is very small compared to other Asian countries), and a multitude of bottlenecks in the value chain of Vietnamese agriculture, including high input costs stemming from overuse of fertilizers and inefficient use of water, low-quality, inefficient production due to the small-scale, scattered nature of the growers, high transaction costs and high post-harvest losses, low technology processing, and low-quality, low-priced exports.

Loc noted that inefficient logistics led to reduced competitiveness for Vietnamese products, and that a restructuring plan is in place to enhance market orientation (promoting key products of advantage), reorganise production to increase scale and promote value chain linkages, and strongly promote the application of science and technology within Vietnam’s agricultural system. Future plans involve the restructuring of resources and labour around products and markets aligned with advantages for Vietnam.

Read Part 1

Part 3 coming soon…



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