July 12, 2014 - 3:02:02 am

Increasing wealth and lavish lifestyles are contributing to the problem of food wastage in Qatar. This phenomenon peaks during Ramadan, the holy month during which people are expected to observe restraint and avoid extravagance.

The volume of leftover food that charities collect from homes, hotels and mass Iftar venues every day is enough to feed 1,000 people. So much food is thrown away during Ramadan that these organisations are unable to collect and distribute all of it. 

“We receive many calls on a daily basis, and sometimes we find that it is beyond our capacity to collect food,’’ said a senior official at Sheikh Eid Charity. 

Sheikh Thani bin Abdullah for Humanitarian Services and Sheikh Eid Charity Association are involved in collecting leftovers from buffets during Ramadan.

Experts say that almost half the food prepared during Ramadan goes into garbage bins. One of the reasons for food wastage is that many families are unable to estimate the quantity of food required for their guests. 

Experts say that such wastage is unacceptable, especially during Ramadan, when Muslims are urged to give food to the poor and needy.

“It (wastage of food) is completely against the spirit of Ramadan. During the holy month people should spend more time worshipping, reading the Quran and helping the needy. The budget of families goes up sharply during Ramadan, which shows that people are not observing Ramadan properly,” said Nesreen Walid, a household expenditure expert.

She said that housewives should reduce the quantity of food prepared for Iftar and use leftovers the next day. 

By wasting food people are not only ignoring the spirit of Ramadan but also bringing a bad name to the country. According to a recent report, GCC countries are among the world’s top food wasters. Particularly high quantities of food are wasted during Ramadan, says the 2013-14 report from the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi. 

In 2013, Qatar Statistics Authority said that more than half of the municipal waste generated in the country contained discarded food. It said that according to one estimate, one-third of all the waste generated in the country consists of discarded food. Qatar produces more than 2.5 million tons of municipal solid waste each year.

Experts say that the problem of food wastage can be solved by bringing about behavioural changes in people by raising awareness of the issue. Religious scholars and leaders can play a crucial role in sensitising people to the issue.