Expertise shared in helping farmers reduce crop losses at first International Conference on Food Loss and Waste

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28 September 2021, China: CABI has shared its expertise in helping smallholder farmers around the world grow more and lose less to crop pests and diseases at the first International Conference on Food Loss and Waste which convened recently in China.

Dr Ulli Kuhlmann, Executive Director, Global Operations at CABI, gave a presentation at the conference – attended by agricultural ministers from a number of G20 members including China, the USA, UK and France – which highlighted how the Plantwise programme (recently evolved to PlantwisePlus) helped to increase food security and improve rural livelihoods through reduced crop losses.

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He told delegates how Plantwise, since its inception 10 years ago, had reached more than 54 million farmers through a network of over 5,000 plant clinics – staffed by in excess of 13,000 plant doctors – located in over 30 countries worldwide.

Dr Kuhlmann revealed that 1.5 million enquires had been brought to the plant clinics on pest and disease issues on over 500 different crops with diagnosis and advice services rendered ultimately resulting in more than 20% increases in yield and upwards of 30% increases in crop-based household incomes.

The inaugural International Conference on Food Loss and Waste – hosted in the same month as the UN’s Food Systems Summit and the G20 Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting – was first proposed by President Xi Jinping in November 2020 at the 15th Summit of G20 Leaders.

China’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Tang Renjian, said the conference aimed to highlight the challenges of global food loss of 14% of output – citing a 2019 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) – and the need, therefore, to bolster worldwide exchanges in agricultural talent, technology and policymaking to reduce unnecessary waste.

Dr Kuhlmann, who also highlighted specific examples of Plantwise’s success in country – for instance in Rwanda where maize yields were increased by 24%, said, “With some 821 million out of 7.6 billion currently not having enough food to eat or having their dietary requirements met and the global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, action is needed now to support smallholder farmers to reduce food losses in production.

“National extension services – such as those revitalized by Plantwise – are critical to provide farmers with the information they need to reduce crop losses, increase income and food security and we anticipate the new PlantwisePlus programme further helping in this respect particularly with remote capacity building activities through the use of digital tools.”

The conference, which achieved 10 consensuses, was attended by 300 attendees including academics from over 50 countries. The ambassadors of 16 countries, Ministers of Agriculture from 24 countries, Deputy Ministers of Agriculture from 6 countries addressed the meeting through live or video connections. 70 invited guests delivered speeches.

The consensuses included an agreement to establish an international food loss and waste research and development platform in Weifang, Shandong, to promote the innovation and experiment of relevant science and technology.

CABI, in addition to its Plantwise and PlantwisePlus programme, already fosters science and innovation in respect of the prevention of crop losses to pests and disease through research by collaboration as part of initiatives such as the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA)-CABI Joint Laboratory (Joint Lab).

The MARA-CABI Joint Laboratory for Bio-safety, located at Institute of Plant Protection of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (IPPCAAS) was launched in 2008 and since then has successfully led and/or implemented 32 international cooperation projects on research and technology transfer in the broad plant protection area.

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