Despite progress, food loss remains a major problem in the GCC

11 September 2023 3 min. read
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Food loss is a growing concern across the world as climate change puts wastefulness into the spotlight. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries can play a pivotal role in reducing food waste, according to a new report.

The private and public sectors in the GCC will need to work together to address food waste, which tends to be a particularly acute problem in the region because of the climate and the region’s high reliance on importing food. That is according to a report by the World Government Summit, created in collaboration with consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

Around 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year while, but paradoxically, one in nine people in the world suffers from hunger. Much of this waste is due to population growth, inefficiencies in food supply chains, and changing habits in eating.

Despite progress, food loss remains a major problem in the GCC

While some regions in the world have been successful in significantly reducing food waste in the past several years, others have seen the problem exacerbate. For example, the percentage of food waste more than doubled in parts of Asia and Oceania.

In the GCC region, food waste is a big problem too. Being ill-suited for agriculture, all Gulf countries rely heavily on food imports and have amassed large trade deficits related to food and agricultural products. In addition, events like weddings and holidays like Ramadan tend to see a large amount of waste because of a culture of lavish, abundant displays of food, something not uncommon in other wealthy countries.

Bahrain has the highest levels of waste among the Gulf countries, with 171 kilograms of waste per person. In fact, Bahrain (along with Kuwait, and Oman) has not given as much attention to the problem of food waste as the other GCC countries Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE, which have all conducted research on the topic and taken steps to address inefficiencies.

Despite progress, food loss remains a major problem in the GCC

In 2015, 150 countries (including all six GCC governments) committed to the framework set out by the UN in the Sustainable Development Goal, which aims to end world hunger. The roadmap includes the ambitious goal of halving food loss and waste globally by 2030.

Part of the solution will be for GCC countries to work towards more comprehensive data collection in terms of food loss and waste. Currently, only Saudi Arabia has adequately collected data on the problem and put it to work on finding solutions.

Enacting policies and regulation to lessen food waste will also be required. For example, the EU, which itself has a serious food waste problem, has enacted union-wide policies that have helped to steer the member countries in the right direction, reducing food waste from 2016 to 2020 by nearly 50%.

Despite progress, food loss remains a major problem in the GCC

The UAE and Qatar have also already developed programs to address food waste and meet reduction goals. Both countries started with conducting studies to better understand food waste, which can then set in motion initiatives to remedy the issue.

"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,” said Sabri Hamade, partner at Oliver Wyman, a global strategy and management consultancy.

“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.”