Indonesia has all of the natural resources potential to developed its agricultural sector. Located along the equator line, Indonesia has the sunshine all over the year. There is even a proverb in Indonesia says “Even wood, stick and stone can be planted and grow up in Indonesia land.” But the fact that Indonesia still has to import some of the agricultural products like rice, shallot and soybean become the proof that a country needs more than just natural resource to be success in agricultural sector. One of the biggest issues is the fluctuation price  and this issue will lead to food waste issue.

Picture 1. Tomatoes are being thrown to the drain because of the unreasonable price

In August 2015, tomatoes farmers in Garut, Indonesia; throw their harvested tomatoes because of the unreasonable price. The tomatoes have been priced for 500 Rupiah (Indonesia currency) per kilogram, meanwhile in regular time, the farmers can sell up to 3,000 Rupiah per kilogram. This happens because there are too many tomatoes supply in the market. It also happens because the price, the time consumed and efforts for the distribution are higher than the cost that the farmers spend for the tomatoes producing. In other words, the farmers will lose more money if they distribute the tomatoes, so letting the tomatoes being rotten or throwing the tomatoes is the best option for them. This phenomenon happens almost every year, sometimes it happens more than once a year, and it happens in lots of place in Indonesia. We can imagine how much amounts of tomatoes have been wasted.

Talking about food security means talking about food waste. It is because according to FAO, one-third of the foods produced in the world has been wasted. If we can cut at least half of this number, we may be able to feed others. But before we move on to the food waste case in Indonesia, we first must understand “what is food waste?”


If we heard about food waste, we probably think about the last salad that we throw into the bin because we feel full enough, or we decided not eat the chicken soup that we made three days ago that smells strange. Food waste is not just about that. According to European Commission, there are three types of food waste: losses: food products lost during the production
2.unavoidable food waste: referring to food products lost during the consumption phase (banana peels, fruit cores, etc.)
3.avoidable food waste: products that could have been eaten, but were lost during the consumption phase

This definition is already giving us the simple way to understand about food waste, but because this writing will discuss about post-harvest food waste, it is better for us to know about Gustavsson categorisation of food waste:

1.agricultural production handling and storage

We can see that Gustavsson categorisation is more specific and try to look about food waste from the starting point of food producing, which is agricultural production.

During my final year in postgraduate, I discussed this topic with some lecturer in Agricultural Department and the Farmers in West Sumatera, Indonesia. They tell me that the phenomena of food waste in post-harvest stage happens when the price of a commodity in the market is too low. The cost for distribution does not cover the total cost of production. Related to the fact, Gustavsson et al. (p.69) in Mckinsey report stated that Indonesia has lost 20% or approximately 30 million tons from the agriculture crops. From these numbers, 50% of the products are fruit and vegetables; and the food losses exist during the post-harvest stage and along the value chain. In my point of view, the roots of the problem are in the distribution and the post-harvest management.

First, distribution problem. In Indonesia, most of the farming is a small scale with a limited access to the market, especially the farmers outside Java island. The small rural farmers have a limitation to distribute their products to a bigger regional markets (Parfitt et al., p. 3067). The poor infrastructure such as road condition and the limitation of transportation option to distribute the products have made a consequence to the cost of the distribution. Therefore, when they have a surplus during the harvest time, they have to let their product being ignored.  This condition is becoming worse because most of the small farmers tend to plant a commodity that being priced higher in the market (Mahdi, 2008); for example, the price of tomatoes is high, so the farmers are encouraged to plant tomatoes, this has led the price to become drastically down. If the problem in the distribution stage can be reduced, the surplus of the tomatoes can actually be delivered to another market in another area in Indonesia.

Indonesia data 1
Picture 3. The estimated numbers of reducing food waste in Indonesia to achieve 7 percent of growth

Second, post harvest management. The surplus of the tomatoes can actually be produce as long term products like tomato sauce. The problem is, there are still few numbers of the industries either big or small scale to support this idea. In order to this, more post-harvest industries should be establish to deal with the phenomena of food harvest surplus that will lead to reduce the food waste in post-harvest stage.

Indonesia data 2
Picture 4. barriers in Indonesia agriculture


In the report, McKinsey also suggested that improved post-harvest techniques and investment in infrastructure including a cold supply chain are crucial in cutting the post-harvest food waste in Indonesia agricultural sector. I realised that these issues is complex and cannot be solved just from one party. A better interaction and coordination between the farmers, the governments, and the industries are needed. More specific data of post-harvest food waste in Indonesia such as the distribution map and the type of the commodity  will be a good starting point. This step will not only contribute to the food waste reduction in Indonesia but it will also contribute to Indonesia economic growth, and hopefully, the economic of the farmers it self.

Reference Lists:

  1. Mahdi. 2008 Problems And Prospects For Sustainable Agricultural Development In Solok District, West Sumatra, Indonesia, Jurnal Agribisnis Kerakyatan, [on-line] 1, 2, 1-15, Accessed 18 January 2016.
  2. McKinsey Global Institute 2012  The Archipelago Economy: Unleashing Indonesia’s Potential, [on-line], pacific/the_archipelago_economy Accessed 18 January 2016
  3. Parfitt, J., Barthel, M. and Macnaughton, S. 2010, Food waste within food supply chains: quantification and potential for change to 2050, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 365/1554: 3065-3081.
  4. Thi, N.B.D., Kumar, G. and Lin, C.Y. 2015, An overview of food waste management in developing countries: Current status and future perspective, Journal of environmental management, 157: 220-229.