food waste india

Food Wastage in India



local private wholesaler
goods monsoon produce (2)
retail chain (2) saturated (2)
rot storage significant
pose import quarter (2)
rely lose out in the end
scrap promote commissioner
grain adviser supreme court
heap inflation infrastructure
millet  expose intervention
stack facility warehouse
plow support consumer
sack reserve dominate
cereal sign (3) principle






The Azapour Market in New Delhi is one of Asia’s largest fruit and vegetable outlets. Customers include local retailers, distributers, restaurant owners and private customers.

The goods sold here have often been on the road for days, traveling right across India.

But now it’s the monsoon season, so the produce is saturated when it arrives.

Rajpal Kumar has been working here since he was child, and tells us little has changed in that time.

Everything that is not sold that same day, just rots, he says.

Rajpal Kumar, Greengrocer: “It’s been raining so the vegetables have gone bad. I’ll have to throw them away.

These vegetables arrived yesterday.”

Nearly half of all foodstuff produced in India end up being scrapped before they even reach the consumer.

Here at the market, temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius pose another problem for the traders.

Rajpal Kumar, Greengrocer: “There are some cold-storage rooms at this market, but they cost 500 rupees a day. Where can we get that kind of money? That’s just for one day.”

We get permission to film inside one of the cold store rooms.

No one wants to talk about why so much food is wasted here at the market.

We discover that the fruits stored here are all imported, from New Zealand, Italy or the United States.

Biraj Patnaik has worked for years as an advisor to India’s Supreme Court on issues of food safety.

He says one of the biggest problems is that the government relies only on private investors to build new, cold-storage facilities.

In the end, he says, everyone loses out.

Biraj Patnaik, Advisor to the Commissioners of the Supreme Court: “Insofar as the consumers are concerned, the two big issues due to lack of good storage are a) the costs are going up for them because significant amounts of food is wasted which leads to food inflation.

And second, the deterioration in the quality of food.”

One reason for the lack of cold-storage facilities is that there are no supermarket chains that could finance that kind of infrastructure — India is still dominated largely by small, local shops.

Nearly every quarter has its own stores with every retailer being responsible for cooling their own goods. Few cities have any major supermarkets. That’s partly because the government promotes and supports local retail.

Much of the food wasted is actually a direct result of state intervention.

This is a state-owned warehouse for cereal crops, right in the edge of the Indian capital.

The wheat and millet stored here are supposed to be reserved for India’s poor (over 30% of the population lives under the poverty line).

But exposed to the weather, the stored produce often goes bad before it reaches those in need.

All the food is already saturated when it arrives.

Day laborers plow through the grain to dry it out.

Biraj Patnaik, Expert on Food Safety: “We don’t have modernization in our storage.

When you stack as we do, one sack of grain on the other, the sack of grain which has come first is on the bottom of the heap.

But you will use the sack that has come last, which is on the top of the heap first.

So it’s the first in, last out principle.”

It would cost billions to set up a cold-chain that would preserve foodstuff across India.

The new government says it recognizes the problem. But after more than a year in office, there is still no sign of major change.

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1. Describe the Azapour Market in New Delhi. What happens there?

2. The produce and foodstuff only come from surrounding farmlands. Is this correct or wrong?

3. Rain is both a blessing and a curse (good and bad). Yes or no? Why can rain and high temperatures be bad?

4. What is the solution for preserving foodstuff? Would it be cheap or expensive?

5. The government provides cold-storage facilities. Is this true or false? Does the government do anything? What does the government do?

6. Is Indian retail predominately small shops or supermarkets?

7. Does grain reach poor people? Why doesn’t much of it reach the needy?


A. In you town or city, do people shop in open markets, small shops, supermarkets, online shopping or all of the above?

B. Retailing, selling and shopping has been changing over the years. Yes or no?

C. Are most produce and foodstuff locally grown, shipping or trucked in, imported or all of them?

D. Much foodstuff is wasted. True or false? Give examples of how food is wasted.

E. How can less food be wasted?

F. What will happen in the future?


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