COVID-19 lockdown limits food waste

Muscat: The oft-repeated outcry of excess food and its waste is almost nil this Ramadhan due to the COVID-19 restrictions on iftar gatherings and buffets at hotels.

Authorities and hoteliers admit that there is significant decrease in the food wastage even as the holy month is nearing to an end.

“During Ramadhan, households, hotels and organisers of mass meals tend to prepare more food than what is really required. But this year, with the ban on community meals and stay-at-home orders, not much food is prepared and wasted,”said an official at Oman Environmental Service Holding Company (be’ah).

According to Be’ah, people in Oman wasted over 13,000 tonnes of food in the first 10 days of Ramadhan, last year. “This is equivalent to food enough to feed 374,135 people every day”, it said.

People seem to be cooking what is required at homes. Unlike previous years, they cannot move freely to the market places to gather food items. So people buy as per the minimum needs as the food is not shared by many people, he said.

This is indicative of the absence of the lavish spreads at the all-you-can-eat buffet seen normally throughout the country in hotels, restaurants and homes for iftar and suhoor.

“The areas that witness maximum food wastage are mass community meals and open buffets during Ramadhan. All these activities are not seen this time due to the restrictions and have limited the waste of food,”said Omer Afridi, owner of a Turkish hotel.

He said that unlike in the previous seasons, there are no leftovers these days as food is prepared only after receiving orders.

“With the ban on dining at restaurants, we are fully in to home deliveries. There is no food wasted in the restaurant kitchens as we only deal with orders available for the day,” Omer said.

In Oman, mosques host large meals, prepared by catering companies or restaurants. In homes, extended families come together for a big spread. At other places friends gather to pray, share and taste the food.

Sulfat Ali Bava, a housewife, said she doesn’t cook much food except a few mandatory items in the Ramadhan menu.“There is nobody to share the food. We break the fast with a few items like dates, soups, sambosas etc. Why should I make more and throw them in the garbage bin,” she asks.

A research conducted by Sultan Qaboos University found that nearly RO 54 million worth of food is wasted in Oman every year.

The study based on the analysis of landfills found that 27 per cent of the total waste comprise food and an average Omani family wastes about a third of all food prepared within the household.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted, which is one third of all food produced for human consumption, globally each year.