Sandra Blaue
Institute of Market Analysis


Bundesallee 63
38116 Braunschweig
Phone: +49 531 596 5302
Fax: +49 531 596 5399

Impact assessment of policy instruments to reduce food losses between production and retail


Carrots in the field (c) Eberhard Spaeth/
Food losses occur for a variety of reasons often already before harvest. (© Eberhard Spaeth/

Reduction of food losses between production and retail in Germany: Impact assessment of regulatory, cooperative and market-based policy instruments

The United Nations, the EU and Germany are pursuing the goal of using food less wastefully. But which political options can make this process positive?

Background and Objective

A quarter of the water used in agriculture worldwide, a land area as large as China and 4.4 gigatons of CO2 equivalents: This is how the FAO and the Food Loss and Waste Protocol quantify the annual resource footprint that results solely from the production of all disposed and lost food. National governments are adopting different political approaches to reduce these negative environmental and climate impacts.

In this doctoral project, we examine three environmental policy instruments for reducing food losses between agricultural production and retail. Although the majority of all food waste in Germany can be attributed to private households, a considerable 30% is accounted for in the value chain stages before wholesale and retail. The uncertain amount of pre-harvest losses is not even included.

Previous scientific work has shown that losses at the early stages of the supply chain are mainly due to economic and political causes. These include unequal power relationships in the market, a lack of cooperation between the actors in the supply chain, economic risks, market price fluctuations and quality standards. In this project, distinct policy instruments will be examined to determine the extent to which they influence the respective causes and could thus contribute to reducing food losses between production and retail in Germany.

Target Group

Scientists, political decision-makers


In this research project, we investigate three environmental policy approaches:

  1. As a regulatory instrument, we analyze a ban on unfair trading practices which came into force within the EU in April 2019 awaiting implementation in national law. These unfair practices include, for example, the short-term cancellation of deliveries or the return of unsold products, which often involve the disposal of these food items.
  2. The dialogue forums for reducing food waste represent a recently implemented cooperative instrument. In this context, among other things, voluntary agreements and voluntary commitments should arise, which we examine for their effectiveness.
  3. Market-based instruments have not yet been included in the nationwide strategy, so that in this case the effects of potential political measures are assessed ex ante.


Data and Methods

Our surveys and evaluations are based primarily on methods of empirical social science. We analyze the prohibition of unfair trading practices and the instrument of the dialogue forums with the help of a quantitative survey of producers and interviews with experts from the dialogue forums. The evaluation of potential market-based instruments is based on a supplementary case study.

Our Research Questions

  1. How can a regulatory policy instrument, such as a ban on unfair trading practices, help reduce food losses between production and retail?
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of cooperative policy instruments such as dialogue forums and voluntary agreements with regard to reducing food losses between production and retail?
  3. How can market-based policy instruments contribute to the reduction of food losses between production and retail?

Preliminary Results

The project results should highlight the advantages and disadvantages of distinct environmental policy instruments for reducing food losses at the first stages of the value chain. They can thus serve as the scientific basis for corresponding political decision-making processes.

Links and Downloads


Involved Thünen-Partners


10.2019 - 9.2023

More Information

Projekt type:
Project status: ongoing

Publications to the project

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