‘Smart consumers can help cut food waste in Philippines’

Food activists, organic farmers and chefs urged Filipino consumers to be conscious of the quantity and quality of food they eat to reduce the country’s food waste.

Slow Food Councilor of Southeast Asia Pacita U. Juan said consumers have the power to demand what food they want from producers.

“Consumers could demand food that are good, clean and fair. But our food system is broken: The farmers feel they are so poor, while our consumers are not getting good food. So where is the gap?” she told the BusinessMirror on the sidelines of the Philippine Sustainable Gastronomy Congress held last month.

“Consumers do not know what they want to demand from the farmers. And, at the same time, farmers do not know what to plant, simply because thay are not communicating with each other,” she added. Ericson B. Atanacio, president of Terra Verde Ecofarm, echoed Juan’s remarks adding that farmers could deliver better quality produce if consumers would demand it.

“Consumers could drive production,” Atanacio told the BusinessMirror in an interview. “If consumers demand better food, then it becomes an impetus for us to figure out how to deliver better- looking food.”

Atanacio said there are a lot of causes of food waste in developing countries like the Philippines, such as the lack of capital and lack of farm technology.

The lack of proper training in terms of packaging and in reducing postharvest losses also contribute to food waste.

Melody Melo-Rijk, project manager of the Sustainable Consumption and Production project of the WWF Philippines, said there is a need to inform Filipino consumers about the extent of the food-waste problem.

“Education is the key for them to be more aware that sustainability should be done now and in that way they can vote through their choices of their food,” Melo-Rijk said in an interview with BusinessMirror.

“So, basically, educating them further would help them to shape the market that we have right now. WWF had a study and, in terms of familiarity with sustainability, [Filipinos] are familiar with the problem, but they do not have in-depth knowledge of sustainability,” she added. Melo-Rijk said millennials are vital in reducing food waste, as they are the country’s growing population with a huge purchasing power.

“We also bank on the survey done by Nielsen they have a global survey that millennials are willing to pay more for green products and services. So they are really a vital part of this initiative,” she said.

“But then again, I am not singling out a single out a specific population, it should be everyone who is doing that,” she added.

Nina Rakel C. Maaghop and Mauro Alfonso S. Mendoza

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