A new report released by the World Government Summit, in partnership with global management consultancy, Oliver Wyman, titled “Food Loss & Waste: GCC Solutions for a Global Challenge”, highlighted the importance of collaboration between government and the private sector in reducing food loss and waste, and accelerating progress towards achieving Target 12.3 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The report focusses on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, since they are particularly vulnerable to the issue of food loss and waste, due to their hot and dry climates and high reliance on food imports, among other factors.

The report emphasises the need to establish clear baselines and appropriate measurement methodologies in accordance with the Global food loss and waste Protocol to better quantify the problem.

It also recommends a multi-faceted approach to reduce food loss and waste, such as introducing new regulations, doubling the efforts to raise awareness, and leveraging innovative technologies.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the number of people facing chronic food deprivation reached 828 million in 2021, and the situation is only expected to get worse in the future.

By 2050, the world population is projected to reach 9.77 billion, placing additional pressure on global food value chains. Food loss and waste is considered a key component of food security - the FAO estimates that one-third of the world's current food production is wasted or lost annually. Experts believe that it would be possible to eliminate world hunger by achieving zero food loss and waste, which will transform our world.

The report highlights the role of government in addressing issues surrounding food and waste, and the role of the private sector that is growing but is still limited in regard to governments. From their unique positions, they can facilitate collaboration between public and private sector stakeholders, governments have the power to enact and accelerate initiatives through legislations, the private sector may not always have the right incentives to reduce the negative externalities caused by food and loss and waste on the environment and natural resources, governments have the means to influence private sector behaviour through incentives or penalisations. A lack of knowledge of the issue among end consumers exacerbates waste, and governments are well positioned to increase awareness.

Mohamed Yousef Al Sharhan, Deputy Managing Director of the World Government Summit Organisation, said that the World Government Summit is a global platform for governments and the private sector to enhance awareness on food security, waste, and supply chains, which in turn affect the economy, environment and society, since food security is associated with economic stability that allows communities to have the resources to lead a better future.

He added that exploring innovative and sustainable solutions, and promoting global cooperation among the governments and the private sector, represents a new step towards taking necessary actions to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

The report also sheds light on the various measures being adopted by regional governments to address the issue.

As part of its national food security strategy, Saudi Arabia aims to halve food loss and waste by 2030, in line with its commitment to the UN's SDG goals. The custodian of the strategy, the Saudi Arabia Grain Organisation (SAGO) has introduced several initiatives to address the FLW problem, starting with a comprehensive Kingdom-wide baseline study launched in 2019. The study, which is the most comprehensive in the GCC, used a sample size exceeding 50,000 people, covering each of Saudi Arabia's 13 regions.

Other notable initiatives include the National Programme to Reduce Food Loss and Waste, which aims to raise awareness on the topic across the country, as well as increasing private-sector participation.

Meanwhile, the UAE has developed an ambitious food security strategy, which is intended to position it as the leading nation on the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) by 2051. The GISI is a widely used, globally referenced tool, developed by the Economist Impact Organisation, part of the Economist Group. The strategy comprises five programmes, one of which is dedicated to reducing food loss and waste, in line with UN SDG 12.3.

Furthermore, Qatar has developed a food security strategy that tackles food loss and waste, and it has also committed to the UN SDG 12.3. The country has plans to launch a comprehensive and integrated programme to address the topic, starting with a national baseline study. This marks a shift towards a more holistic approach to managing the problem, which has historically been addressed through awareness campaigns and a reliance on the private sector to introduce innovative solutions.

Sabri Hamade, Author and Partner at Oliver Wyman, said, "The governments in the GCC have dealt with the issue with urgency, and the initiatives that were launched continued to steadily gain traction. Furthermore, these public sector interventions are increasingly supported by input from the private sector and society. Food loss and waste has social, environmental, and economic impact therefore, working collaboratively to find and implement solutions now is paramount to the security, prosperity, and equity of our world's future.”

The report was officially launched at WGS2023, which took place in Dubai from 13th-15th February 2023, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.