The Journal of Agricultural Science

Foresight Project on Global Food and Farming Futures

Postharvest losses and waste in developed and less developed countries: opportunities to improve resource use*

R. J. HODGESa1 c1, J. C. BUZBYa2 and B. BENNETTa1

a1 Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, Chatham Maritime, Kent ME4 4TB, UK

a2 Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 1800 M Street, Washington, DC 20036-5831, USA


This review compares and contrasts postharvest food losses (PHLs) and waste in developed countries (especially the USA and the UK) with those in less developed countries (LDCs), especially the case of cereals in sub-Saharan Africa. Reducing food losses offers an important way of increasing food availability without requiring additional production resources, and in LDCs it can contribute to rural development and poverty reduction by improving agribusiness livelihoods. The critical factors governing PHLs and food waste are mostly after the farm gate in developed countries but before the farm gate in LDCs. In the foreseeable future (e.g. up to 2030), the main drivers for reducing PHLs differ: in the developed world, they include consumer education campaigns, carefully targeted taxation and private and public sector partnerships sharing the responsibility for loss reduction. The LDCs’ drivers include more widespread education of farmers in the causes of PHLs; better infrastructure to connect smallholders to markets; more effective value chains that provide sufficient financial incentives at the producer level; opportunities to adopt collective marketing and better technologies supported by access to microcredit; and the public and private sectors sharing the investment costs and risks in market-orientated interventions.

(Received September 20 2010)

(Accepted September 22 2010)

(Online publication November 19 2010)


c1 To whom all correspondence should be addressed. Email:

* The views expressed here are those of the authors, and may not be attributed to the Natural Resources Institute (UK), the Economic Research Service or the US Department of Agriculture.