Around 3.6 million tonnes of food waste and surplus occur in primary production every year, costing the UK £1.2 billion according to research by the sustainability body Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
WRAP has generated the ‘most reliable’ estimate to date for total farm surplus and food waste, which assessed the core categories of vegetables, fruit, cereal crops, dairy and livestock. The 3.6 million tonnes of food waste and surplus per annum is equivalent to 7.2% of production.
WRAP estimates food waste accounts for 1.6 million tonnes of the total figure. Sugar beet, potatoes and carrots made up more than half the overall waste in weight.
Surplus food are products that are not sold for human consumption but instead used for livestock feed or redistributed to charities. The amount of food surplus is estimated to be an additional 2 million tonnes per annum and costs more than £500 million.
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 focussed. We want to increase redistribution of surplus food as has happened across the retail sector, and I am pleased this will now be much easier through the Food Surplus Network.”
The Food Surplus Network provides farmers and small businesses access to a broad range of markets for surplus food. There are five main categories: fruit, vegetables, meat and poultry, dairy and bread. Maddox believes this will “help bring more clarity to an issue that is happening around the globe.”
Mark Varney, director of food & network development at FareShare, added: “By working in close collaboration with farmers and growers, and helping them access up to £50k towards the cost of redistributing edible surplus to people via the FareShare Surplus with Purpose fund, we can unlock more of this good food and get it onto the plates of vulnerable people.”
WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste programme is running a Spoiled Rotten campaign that attempts to outline the role people can all play in reducing food waste when buying produce and ensuring people eat what they buy.
The sustainability body has also partnered with Courtauld 2025 to deliver practical solutions for food waste and surplus problems. This includes projects with strawberry growers and potato growers to invest in more efficient production systems.