A “case” of misguided policy

IMG_20160210_143932811A recent post noted the dysfunctional aspects of our food system which result in nearly half of the food produced going to waste. Much waste occurs because we simply grow/produce too much of certain items. In many cases the excess results from a hedge against a poor growing season – and good growing years yield much excess. In others, the excess results from imbalances between supply and demand; producing the optimal quantity is always a difficult task. The result is a lot of waste – and that also involves the waste of all of the resource inputs (land, water, fertilizer, pesticides, labor, and human capital) that went into producing the product(s) in question. A recent Wall Street Journal article provided an example, noting that Treasury Wine Estates was taking a $145 million charge for destroying excess wines that had passed their drink-by dates. The article pointed out that wine producers can recall unsold bottles of wine and destroy them in order to recoup the taxes that were paid on the phone. An industry consultant noted that producers can use a steamroller to destroy the bottles in order to take the loss. Even for low-end wines that is a painful vision. There is something clearly wrong when companies are paid to destroy food and beverage products rather than put those items to an alternative use. In this case, a better option would have been to repurpose the wine into something else while recycling the bottles for additional use. That way some utility could have been attained, and limited resources could have been put to better use. Governments around the world need to review and change policies that give incentives for destroying food resources rather than making use of them.

 

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