Food losses are estimated differently by different people through more of a guess than figures based on any definitive data. Ever since our independence, figures varying between 20% and 50% were routinely used by people to "stress" on the need to develop and deploy technologies that could reduce this wastage. While estimation of pre-harvest food losses is an extremely hard task, post-harvest losses can be quantified by bench mark surveys in different agricultural regions of the country. Food Corporation of India which procures about 10% of country's food grain production reports that their handling and storage losses are less than 2%. In the recent food convention at Bangalore a top scientist put the value of annual food losses at an astronomical figure of Rs 765 billion, though it is not clear how this figure was arrived at.
"Out of the loss of Rs 76,500 crore,equivalent to the annual budget of three big states, Rs 52,400 crore accounts for perishable fruits, vegetables and poultry products. This calls for augmenting infrastructure facilities,including storage and gearing up food processing industry", Dr A K Srivastava, Director and Vice-Chancellor NDRI Deemed University said.
According to some social scientists in India practically nothing is wasted because of the prevalence of abject poverty amongst more than one third of the population. Of course due to insufficient cold storage facilities there can be some quality losses but quantitatively the loss is considered negligible because there is a substantial clientele for low quality perishables also at lower prices. If a realistic estimate of real losses is to be made, only scientific survey of the entire food chain at the ground level can bring out the facts.