Food worth £1.2 billion 'wasted'

| 25th July 2019
A total of 1.6 million tonnes of food at the point of harvest or slaughter which goes to waste.

This tells us is there is huge potential to reduce the amount of surplus and waste by promoting best practice. 

Almost £1.2 billion worth of food a year goes to waste on UK farms or ends up in uses such as feeding livestock instead of people, analysis suggests.

A study by waste and resources body WRAP found 3.6 million tonnes of vegetables, fruit, cereal crops, dairy and meat is wasted or not sold on for human consumption from farms, accounting for seven percent of total UK production.

The figures include 1.6 million tonnes of food at the point of harvest or slaughter which goes to waste, being sent of landfill, ploughed back into the ground, composted or used for energy and fertiliser in "anaerobic digestion".

Lettuces

In addition, two million tonnes of food which had been intended for human consumption is "surplus", produce at risk of being waste which ends up as livestock feed, redistributed to charities or is used for things such as colourants.

Food waste and surplus occurs as products are graded, packed and washed, or are rejected by customers, Wrap said.

The report found wasted food would have had a market value of around £650 million and and surplus food is estimated to be worth more than £500 million. It is hoped the report can help reduce waste.

It found sugar beet topped the list in terms of the total annual amount of waste, with 347,000 tonnes, followed by 335,000 tonnes of potatoes and 152,000 tonnes of carrots.

But other crops saw a very high proportion of their produce wasted, with almost a quarter of lettuces, 104,000 tonnes, going to waste.

Vast

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 is there is huge potential to reduce the amount of surplus and waste by promoting best practice, and that's where our work is now focused."

He said Wrap wanted to see increased redistribution of surplus food, as has happened in the retail sector.

Peter Andrews, head of sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: "Food waste is a major source of carbon emissions and we support Wrap's efforts to mitigate it.

"The challenges involved in tackling food waste in farming are vast, but if we are to be serious about these environmental and social challenges of food production and consumption then we can leave no stone unturned.

Supply chain

"Retailers are working closely with their suppliers to minimise waste, for example by using more accurate prediction of demand, finding ways to use surplus production, and settings clear targets for future improvement."

Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association said growers wanted to maximise sales of the produce grown on their land, because a failure to do so puts already slim margins under even greater pressure.

"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.

"Having new insights into the scale of food waste and under-utilised production on farm is a positive step forward, and a resource that should be of use to many growers and the wider supply chain."

This Author

Emily Beament is the PA environment correspondent.

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