Call for proposals: Food loss in international trade in Asia-Pacific: Country case studies and implications for trade facilitation - Deadline 31 March 2021

Bangkok, Thailand

United Nations ESCAP is seeking up to three separate research consultants (or up to three teams of consultants, henceforth the terms “consultant” refers to either an individual or a team of consultants) to carry out 3 separate country case studies on food loss in international trade - one in Bangladesh, one in Thailand, and one in any other Asia-Pacific economy member of ESCAP. A consultancy budget of up to USD 10,000 is available for each case study, including literature review, development of analytical framework, data collection, analysis and implications for trade facilitation implementation.


The seminal 2011 FAO report estimated that that as much as a third of the world’s food is wasted every year. More recent studies put the amount of food wasted at 931 tonnes, or 74kg per capita per year globally. Food loss contributes to hunger, food insecurity, inequality and causes direct economic losses. It has also been suggested that if food loss were a country, it would be the third largest contributor to greenhouse emissions globally. As such, Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 aims to halve food waste and reduce food loss by 2030.

The vast majority of food waste is estimated to occur at the household level, followed by food service and retail sectors. However, the scale of food loss in international trade is little understood. Indeed, FAO (2011) report suggested that the “impact of growing international trade on food losses still has to be better assessed.” However, it is understood to be an important contributor to food loss, and international trade cooperation or free trade agreements to reduce delays in moving perishable food products across borders are recommended.

ESCAP (2018) points out that one measurable aspects of food loss is through border rejections due to non-compliance with national standards/non-tariff measures, as food imports that fail to meet requirements are either returned or destroyed. However, ESCAP & ITC (2019) report further suggests that it is most often domestic procedural obstacles at home countries that are burdensome, and therefore have the potential to cause food loss. Anecdotal evidence suggests that unnecessary delays at borders are not uncommon. For example, an expert group meeting on non-tariff measures noted that border delays are particularly detrimental to perishable goods, implying that there are opportunities to reduce food loss. As such, streamlining border procedures – both outward and inwards – are assumed to be the main focus of interest.

Careful balance, however, must be ensured as inadequate SPS measures can facilitate the cross-border spread of pests and diseases and can potentially have a detrimental effect on food security and cause significant economic losses (e.g. African swine fever).  Indeed, many technical regulations on food imports are very necessary and positively contribute to sustainable development.

Call for proposals: Deadline 31 March 2021