World population has reached to 7.2 billion in 2014 and is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050 (United Nations 2014). In order to feed this growing population, global food production needs to increase by 70 per cent (FAO 2009). At present, about 800 million people are living with hunger; which means one in nine is undernourished (FAO, IFAD & WFP 2015). In addition, due to increasing urbanization, changes in lifestyle and consumption patterns, the demand for certain types of products such as meat, milk and eggs will steadily increase. (World Health Organization 2003). Food security is among the topics high on the agenda for many governments around the world. For countries with limited available natural resources such as land, water, forests and so on, increasing their food production will be a challenge. In addition, climate change will pose another constraint, as extreme weather events such as floods, storms, and drought will not only become more frequent, but also more severe in the near future (IPCC 2014). As a result, this is expected to overall negatively affect food production and all dimensions of food security. A food supply chain or food system refers to the processes that include agricultural production, post harvest handling and storage, processing and packaging, distribution and consumption. Each process in the food supply chain is connected, hence changes on one part will be reflected on other parts in particular as changes in price of end products. Both push and pull processes are in place: while growers, processors or retailers push the food products to the market, the consumers initiate “pull” processes by demanding food that can satisfy their needs and preferences. We report preliminary findings from the Safeguarding Food and Environment in Qatar (SAFE-Q) project, funded by the Qatar National Research Fund, and jointly undertaken by Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, Cranfield University and Brunel University in the UK and Western Sydney University in Australia. The project involves undertaking a detailed analysis of supply and demand sides, examining the causes of food waste occurring during distribution, transportation and storage as well as during food preparation, cooking and consumption. Here, we report findings from interviews we conducted with the stakeholders on the supply side. We conducted interviews in October and November 2015 with distributors, restaurants, hotels as well as non-governmental organisations. In these interviews we asked whether the food was being discarded in the day-to-day operations of the company, followed by the main reasons for this food waste. We also presented the participants with factors that were identified in an earlier stage of the research as being contributors to the food waste and asked the cause and effect relationships between these factors. Following the factor-specific questions, we inquired about initiatives to reduce food waste in the company, as well as the relevant stakeholders that should be reached out to minimise food waste in general. Finally, we asked about potential solutions to food waste situation, and how the participant observes the future of food waste in Qatar. The factors that we have asked to the participants on the supply side were as follows: Packaging, Government legislation, Arab culture, Certification, Competition, Planning, Food safety standards/regulations, Import controls, Food labelling, Logistics infrastructure, Food handling, Promotions, Quality control, Seasonality of demand, Shelf life management, Stock management, and Temperature management. Throughout these interviews we gained insights into the previously identified factors leading to waste in Qatar. For example, food handling was elaborated as staff's lack of knowledge about the food product, lack of knowledge about the storage conditions of the food product. In relation to the seasonality of demand, inability to anticipate market demand was highlighted together with lack of skills for forecasting the demand. Another interesting finding was related to the shelf-life of products, the retailers commented that the shelf-life regulations were different from the rest of the countries in the Gulf region. For example, a canned food item would have a shelf-life of 1.5 years in Qatar whereas its shelf-life would be 2 years in other Gulf countries. Such discrepancies lead to food items being discarded in Qatar although they may still be fit for sale elsewhere in the region. This also had impact on what is being imported into the country, for example it was difficult to convince some producers to prepare the same product with two different expiry dates; one for the Gulf region and one specific to Qatar. One possible explanation to this discrepancy of expiry dates was suggested to be the legislator's desire to prevent bulk-buying on the consumption side, but this is yet to be confirmed with further research. Food labelling was one of the factors elaborated in many of the interviews in different aspects. For example, a significant amount of food is being wasted due to poor labelling; lack of the necessary information on the label. Sometimes the importers were unaware of the sensitivities in Qatar: a reported incident included the suggestion to eat the food with wine for example, and this resulted in the food products' being rejected at the port even though the product itself did not contain any alcohol. Another case mentioned involved a product's brand name familiarity with bacon, although the product did not contain any meat. In terms of suggested solutions to the food waste problem on the supply side, the preliminary data analysis found that the sector in general would benefit from training in food handling, purchasing, procurement, and storage conditions. The participants acknowledged a general lack of expertise in supply chain management and logistics. Another aspect was related to legislation and a single responsible authority for food control in the country. Although the interviews focused on the supply side, participants also commented in general on the awareness raising campaigns, particularly targeted at schools and young people.


FAO. 2009. How to feed the world in 2050. Rome.

FAO, IFAD and WFP. 2015. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015. Rome.

United Nations. 2014. The World Population Situation in 2014. A Concise Report. New York.

World Health Organization. 2003. Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases. Report of a Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation. WHO Technical Series.


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