Waste advisors have stepped up efforts to slash food wasted on farms through new guidance launched for growers
Farmers are being offered access to new support to help them measure food surpluses and waste, and identify how best to cut it, following the publication of expanded guidance from waste advisory body WRAP.
The charity's updated food waste reduction roadmap grower guidance, published yesterday, includes two practical guides and tools designed to improve in-field measurement of food waste. It has been developed with trade bodies and industry organisations such as the National Farmers' Union, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, and the British Growers Association.
Research by WRAP has highlighted how widespread measuring can help significantly reduce food waste levels, given many organisations remain unaware of waste 'hot spots' within the lifecycle of food products.
It is estimated that around 3.6 million tonnes of food either goes to waste on farms each year, or is deemed surplus to requirement. The waste and surpluses represent a potential £1.2bn loss to the sector, and is equivalent to seven per cent of the UK's total food harvest.
Sugar beet, potatoes, and carrots made up more than half of the overall waste by weight, with the top ten products accounting for 80 per cent of the total weight.
Crop-specific analysis found that some 19 per cent of all lettuces went unharvested in 2015, with 38,000 tonnes lost across the sector, worth £7m. Wastage varied significantly between growers, ranging from seven to 47 per cent of production and suggesting that different techniques and approaches can have amajor impact on waste levels.
Supporting growers to better measure and share waste data can identify huge opportunities to improve productivity, WRAP said.
"Reducing food surplus and waste is a huge opportunity for the sector," said WRAP director Peter Maddox. "We estimate that around 3.6 million tonnes of food either goes to waste on farm each year, or is surplus to requirement... Measuring food surplus and waste is the first step to tackling the problem, and our guides will show where action is needed on farm - whatever the scale of production or crop type, and whether hand or machine-harvested. They are intuitive to use and set out the actions necessary to measure consistently to make comparisons over time, and between growers."
Andy Mitchell, senior technical manager of an international fruit distributors Worldwide Fruit and chair of the Courtauld 2025 Fresh Produce Working Group, said that it had worked with its growers to measure waste for several seasons on various different crops.
"What was found was a huge variability season to season," he explained. "This variability and size was not appreciated by us or the growers. As food producers, we want as much of this produce to feed people, but food waste is also a big driver of climate change, as well as a key driver of significant loss of commercial potential of the crop. These reasons make it critical to tackle this for the long-term sustainability and viability of our crops."
Consistent and accurate measurement was the first step, according to Mitchell, who added that other businesses should make use of WRAP's new guidance.
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