More than £1 billion of food surplus occurs in primary production every year, according to a study highlighting the scale of the country’s waste problem. Crops rejected by retailers because they do not meet quality standards, fluctuations in demand or problems during storage or packing all contribute to 3.6m tonnes of waste that never ends up leaving farms. The figure equates to 7.2 percent of food harvested and is more than 10 times the amount thrown away by retailers,
The report, by waste-reduction body Wrap, says the surplus includes 2m tonnes of edible food that does not make it to a retailer or other intended buyer, but is diverted to feed livestock or distributed to charities. The rest is disposed of by being ploughed back into fields, composted or used to create energy.
Peter Maddox, Director of Wrap, said: “This is the most detailed study of food surplus and waste in primary production undertaken for the UK, and a key finding has been the range of waste across all food categories.
“This tells us there is huge potential to reduce the amount of surplus and waste by promoting best practice, and that’s where our work is now focussed.”
Jack Ward, Chief Executive of the British Growers Association, said that from a grower’s perspective, it is “critical that we maximise sales of the produce grown on our land for its primary use.”
He added: “Any product left on farm, whether it fails to meet specification or is rejected for quality factors, is very frustrating. “As the sustainability of our food production systems comes under increasing scrutiny, reducing waste at every point in the food supply chain will be an increasing priority.”