Half the potato crop is lost on the way from field to fork

Agroscope and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) conducted a comprehensive joint study on food losses along the Swiss potato supply chain. Roughly half of the crop does not make it on to the consumer’s fork.

Under the umbrella of NRP 69 “Healthy Nutrition and Sustainable Food Production”, researchers from Agroscope and ETHZ analysed the supply chain for potatoes – a staple food that is frequently wasted. The study shows that 53 percent of conventionally produced potatoes and 55 percent of organic tubers don’t reach the household dining table. In the case of processed potatoes, the losses are 46 and 41 percent.

Losses occur at different levels: producers (up to 25 percent), wholesalers (12 to 24 percent), retailers (1 to 3 percent) and consumers (15 percent). According to the authors, household waste is the most alarming area because products which private consumers don’t use will end up in the waste bin or on the compost heap. The majority of producers, traders and processors, on the other hand, channel their waste into animal feedstuffs or biogas production.

Habits need to change

The authors advise producers to change their production methods and use more resistant potato varieties in order to reduce wastage. Consumers should rethink their purchasing and eating habits. Studies show that 300 kg of edible food products per person are thrown away each year in Switzerland.