2.5 million tons
How Much Food is Wasted in Israel
The unchanged scope of food waste is not the result of streamlining or structural change in the food supply chain, but of the counteractive effects the Covid-19 crises has had on the Israeli economy. These effects stem from a combination of the increase in waste in the agricultural and household consumption sectors and the decrease in waste in the institutional consumption and retail sectors.
The increase in waste in the agricultural sector due to the pandemic stemmed from a lack of manpower during the first lockdown, restricted export channels, and a shutdown of business activity in the institutional sector (hotels, restaurants, etc.). In addition, the restrictions on travel and gatherings and the economic damage to household incomes led to changes in consumption patterns. The Covid-19 crisis caused consumers to purchase food through channels with lower food waste rates. There was an increase in online shopping, which is characterized by low waste rates, and a decrease in open market shopping, which is characterized by high waste rates. In addition, there was a shift from food consumption in the institutional sector, which is characterized by relatively high waste rates, to household food consumption, which has lower waste rates. These changes have led to a decrease in food waste in the consumption and retail sectors [more on this in the following chapters].
Food waste estimates in Israel are based on a unique value chain model for domestic food production (4). Estimated at approximately 2.5 billion tons, food waste in Israel constitutes about 35% of overall domestic food production. In the agricultural sector, the amount of food produced in 2020 was almost identical to that produced in 2019, which was about 7 million tons.
In monetary terms, about 21% of the value of the wasted food, which is equivalent to approximately NIS 4 billion, occurs during various stages of production. This loss of NIS 4 billion in value represents approximately 13% of the total value of agricultural production in Israel. Approximately 79% of the waste, equivalent to approximately NIS 15 billion, occurs during the retail stages of distribution and consumption.
Economically, the value of agricultural commodities per ton increases as they progress along the production value chain, and food entails the investment of additional costs for sorting, processing, transport, distribution, and retailing. The authors of this report assessed the waste value in the early stages of production (growing, packaging, and manufacturing) based on wholesale prices that were paid to farmers. Waste during the later stages in the value chain was estimated based on retail food prices.
A comprehensive value chain model for various food production and consumption stages was designed to assess food waste and the potential for food rescue in Israel. This model is based on a bottom-up approach and the analysis of data relevant to the agricultural production, storage, import, export, industrial aspects, distribution, and consumption of a sample of around 50 different types of food (5). The data includes processed produce that was translated to terms of fresh produce.
For each type of food, the volume of input and output was measured in terms of gross agricultural product and waste rate for every stage of the value chain of the food production, distribution, and consumption processes in Israel. The assessment presented here is based in part on agricultural waste surveys conducted and updated by the Volcani Center (6). The total estimated food waste for the economy as a whole and for each food type is based on the waste estimated for each stage and each product in the value chain.
Food waste is generally divided into two main stages of the value chain
Estimated Food Waste in Israel* in 2020
The data on food waste presented in this report is based on estimates that weighted information from a wide range of sources and data that was available to the authors, including the Central Bureau of Statistics, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and the Ministry of Social Affairs. Additional sources of information included conversations and interviews with experts working in the field, study findings, and results from previous reviews, international comparative studies and more.
There are wide variations in food waste across the various food types and stages of the value chain. In each stage of the value chain, the amount of food wasted out of the total amount of food produced or consumed was examined. Thus, for example, 9% of the food produced in agriculture was wasted during the agricultural stage. Likewise, 16% of food in the consumption segment (household and institutional consumption) – goes to waste.
Fruit and vegetables constitute a major part of food waste in Israel. This stems from the fact that they are a substantial part of Israel’s agricultural industry combined with a high waste rate of approximately 44% throughout the stages of the value chain. High waste rates for fruit and vegetables are not unique to the Israeli economy. An international comparison shows similar rates for fruit and vegetable waste in Europe. Compared to the United States, the waste rate in Israel is lower, however it consists of lower waste rates in the agricultural and consumption stages and a higher waste rates in the intermediate stages (7).
The economic value of wasted food in Israel is around NIS 19.1 billion, constituting approximately 1.4% of the national product, as estimated by the authors of this report. Approximately 8% resulted from the unnecessary waste of natural resources (land and water). In addition, the unnecessary cost of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants in each stage of the value chain due to the growing and producing of unconsumed food, is estimated at around NIS 1 billion. The cost of processing and packaging wasted food is estimated at around NIS 800 million. Therefore, the total cost of wasted food, including the waste of natural resources, the cost of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, and the cost of waste processing, stands at approximately NIS 21 billion.
In quantitative terms, approximately 55% of the waste occurs in the stages of production, industry, retail, and distribution, even before the food has reached the household or institutional consumer. In monetary terms, approximately 56% of the value of the food is lost in the stages of private and institutional consumption.