Friday, March 1, 2013

Chinese Taipei’s APEC Initiative to Reduce Food Losses

Eric Chiou
          In recent years, food security has become one of prominent issues attracting broad attention. As one of the key regional organizations, since l999, APEC has been working toward enhancing food security in the region by promoting an APEC Food System. The latest volatility of international food prices in 2007-08 and in 2011 has brought devastating impact on the vulnerable people and reminded us of a lingering danger of food crisis, due to various factors, such as negative impact of global warming, increased use of biofuel, rising food demands from newly emerging countries, and growing frequency and intensity of natural disasters.
          Since the population in the APEC region accounts for 41% of world population and 53% of global cereal production and almost 70% of fish production, strengthening food security in the APEC region will not only improve regional food stability, but will also effectively contribute to global food security. Given the pressing burden of food demand cannot be totally solved by rising food productivity, how to reduce food losses and wastes along the entire food supply chain has been considered as a promising way to improve food supply.
          Against this background, Chinese Taipei has proposed an APEC multi-year project, "Strengthening Public-Private Partnership to Reduce Food Losses in the Supply Chain", in May, 2012, in Kazan, Russia, which proposal has been endorsed by the APEC Agricultural Technical Cooperation (ATCWG) and APEC Policy Partnership on Food Security (PPFS) in January and February 2013, respectively. This project aims to address post-harvest losses in all stages of the entire food supply chain in the APEC region by strengthening public-private partnership. In addition to generating feasible solutions, policy recommendations, and action plans for lowering food losses, this project also intends to improve food quality and safety and to develop a consolidated methodology of food losses assessment suitable for APEC economies.
In sum, the objectives of this project are as follows:
  1. To identify key issues on reducing post-harvest losses and costs along the entire food supply chain and improving food safety and quality in the APEC region;
  2. To seek best practices in private and public sectors on reducing postharvest losses and costs, to enhance the role of public-private partnership (PPP) along the entire food supply chain, to reinforce policy coordination among APEC economies, and to establish a milestone for APEC food security; and
  3. To search and identify practical solutions, to enhance capacity-building on reducing food losses and costs as well as improving food safety and quality, and to develop a consolidated methodology of APEC food losses assessment, thus contributing to safeguarding food security in the APEC region.

          This project is planned to be implemented in three phases within five years. Specifically speaking, in Phase I (2013), a Focal Point Network (FPN), containing experts, private sectors, and officials from members of ATCWG and PPFS, on a voluntary basis, will be organized as the core unit for implementing the project. The members of FPN will oversee and provide guidance to the completion of a pioneering study in investigating the current status and critical issues of post-harvest losses in the APEC region. A seminar, providing a broad understanding of post-harvest food losses, identifying key issues, and facilitating exchanges of best practices from public and private sectors among APEC economies, will be held in August 2013 in Chinese Taipei, and it will pay special attention to the reduction of food losses on food crops as a major illustrated example in this phase.
          Phase II (2014-2016) focuses on food losses issues of different types of foods for three consecutive years. In 2014, the major subject will be concentrated on reducing post-harvest losses of fruit and vegetables. In 2015, the main theme will be fishery and livestock products. In 2016, the topic will be moved to food wastes issues occurred on the food consumption, including how to reduce food wastes from individual household's food preparation, supermarkets, to restaurants. Additionally, the issue of how to facilitate food transportation during custom clearance process by enhancing cooperation between public sectors, to avoid unnecessary food losses will also be discussed in each year's seminar. In this phase, numerous technologyoriented workshops focusing on capacity building will be held back-to-back with an annual seminar.
          Phase III (2017) is to synthesize the previous progress of the project and to generate the final conclusion of policy recommendations, action plans, and a consolidated methodology of APEC food losses assessment. The FPN will conclude research results, draft policy suggestions, develop a methodology of APEC food losses assessment, and establish a milestone for APEC food security as major outputs for a following high level policy meeting to be held in 2017. This high-level meeting is designed for an in-depth discussion on the achievements and policy recommendations provided by the FPN, in order to deliberate on the next steps and to consolidate the final deliverables to APEC.
In addition, this project also supports the capacity building needs of APEC developing economies and intends to increase their engagements through the following approaches:
  1. Identification of specific needs: This project is planned to invite relevant officials and representatives of private sector in APEC developing economies, in order to identify key issues they concern and to account for major difficulties they encounter.
  2. Facilitating exchanges of best practices and successful stories: Since this project underscores the importance of cooperation between public and private sectors on reducing food losses and costs, it will emphasize the experience-sharing of public sector's best practices and introduce private sector's successful stories in lowering food losses and costs. Furthermore, the applications of advanced technologies and the dissemination of the latest know-how and skills on reducing post-harvest losses along the entire food supply chain from successful firms in private sector will be introduced, in order to meet the needs of developing economies and thus contribute to reinforcing their capacity building.
  3. Training programs with specific goals: Since this project will be executed in a gradual and annually specific-targeted manner, in addition to related knowledge dissemination, it also aims to hold various task-oriented training programs, which will benefit APEC developing economies, along with a yearly seminar. These programs will be specially tailored for the demands of APEC developing economies and be designed to focus on key components of food supply chain that food losses can be ameliorated, such as improving food packaging, utilizing the latest technologies to extend food preservation, establishing more efficient food delivery system, etc.
          Overall, this project is expected to make substantial contribution to food security, which is the key to achieving the goals of APEC Growth Strategies, 24 priorities and important tasks of APEC fora. If Chinese Taipei's APEC multiyear project can successfully obtain APEC funding support, food losses in APEC will be effectively alleviated, so as to enhance APEC food security in the long run.
(Dr. Eric Chiou is the Associate Research Fellow of TIER)

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