Between 10% and 16% of all crops produced from UK farms are wasted, partly due to consumer fussiness and the buying power of retailers, according to research from environment charity Feedback.
Fruit and vegetable farmers responding to a Feedback survey reported that together they wasted between 22,000 and 37,000 tonnes per year, equal to enough produce to provide up to 250,000 people with five portions of fruit and vegetables a day for a year. The farmers surveyed represent 2.6% of the UK’s fruit and vegetable production.
The research found that farmers reported a major power imbalance in the UK’s food system, with retailers’ buying power enabling them to transfer the risk and cost of overproduction onto producers.
Over half of farmers surveyed agreed with the statement: “Farmers overproduce because there is pressure to always meet buyer orders, or risk losing contracts. It is difficult to find outlets for the surplus.”
Just under half of the surveyed farmers said that retailers use cosmetic standards – the criteria in terms of colour, shape and size that fresh produce must meet in order to be sold on supermarket shelves – as an excuse to reject produce when retailers can get a lower price elsewhere or following a fall in demand.
While farmers surveyed named consumer fussiness as the most significant driver of waste caused by cosmetic standards, most farmers who believed this also said this fussiness was primarily driven by retailers.
One farmer said that they waste on average 25% of their carrots, amounting to 1,750 tonnes per year, in large part because they are rejected for being too small, large, or wonky.
Feedback executive director Carina Millstone said: “Despite a government and industry focus on food waste occurring in homes, our pioneering research finds that waste on farms, often a result of supermarkets’ outsized power in the supply chain, is significant and pervasive.
“Supermarkets need to recognise their part in driving food waste on the farms in their supply chain and work with their suppliers to reduce this waste.
She added: “The government’s decision not to extend the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator to cover smaller, indirect suppliers is huge blow for both food waste prevention and farmers struggling with their bottom line; the government should reconsider this decision, or risk a wasted opportunity to demonstrate real support for the people who grow our food.”
Earlier this month, Aldi UK and Ireland pledged to reduce operational food waste by 50% by 2030 from a 2015 benchmark. Meanwhile, British supermarket Co-op has started selling food products beyond their best before dates in a bid to cut food waste.
The EU and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN have joined forces to combat global levels of food waste. Both organisations signed a letter of intent last year to halve per capita food waste by 2030, a goal established under the new Sustainable Development Goals global agenda.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2022
World Beverage Innovation Awards – NOW OPEN FOR ENTRIES!
The awards celebrate excellence and innovation across the global beverage industry.
Don’t miss out on having your innovations recognised on a global scale.
Deadline for entries 23 July – enter now!
Don’t get left behind
Start your free Foodbev magazine trial today and join thousands of fellow industry professionals in receiving food and drink trends direct to our business.
Click here to start your free trial