Ramadan brings the issue of food wastage in Saudi Arabia to the forefront
The problem of food wastage in Ramadan has again surfaced in Saudi Arabia.
According to a study conducted by King Saud University, an estimated 4,500 tons of food is wasted every day in Saudi Arabia. But food waste is widespread in Saudi Arabia not only during Ramadan but during the whole year.
The study showed that 30 percent of the 4 million dishes prepared daily during Ramadan go waste, which amounts to SR1.2 million.
Wasted food globally is reportedly estimated at 1.3 billion tons, worth SR2.8 billion.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry also expressed concern that 45 percent of the waste in Ramadan consists of food.
However food waste is not unique to Saudi Arabia, low income and developed countries face problems in waste. Low income countries waste food during its production while developed countries do so at consumption stage.
The problem is not just that people buy more food during Ramadan but they simply buy food more than what is often consumed.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry is right in pointing out the food waste problem as well as the perils of unhygienically prepared food that is detrimental to health. One way to reduce waste is for consumers to reduce their food purchases, especially spontaneous purchases, which have been proven to be most wasteful.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s top food importer, and also rated as one of the worst wasters.
Many people in the Kingdom donate too much food during the holy month of Ramadan, which also results in wastage.
The food wastage is an important issue, both from an ethical, social and economic perspective. Food is a scarce resource in a part of the world where some 90 percent of key foodstuffs are imported. Two key issues or opportunities suggest themselves here:
• Education and awareness building are critical. This should start early on in schools. One issue perhaps is explaining how food can be stored in a way that does not compromise on quality. After all, in many countries, the reality of two-earner households has created a situation where food is often cooked for several days at a time and then reheated during the week.
• Utilizing wasted food more efficiently is important. This is part of a broader issue of rational and economically efficient waste management, where the region can do much better. Nowadays, waste management allows waste to be profitably converted into valuable commodities while at the same time solving waste storage problems and even security risks.