Knowledge for better food systems

Report: Farmers talk food waste: supermarkets’ role in crop waste on UK farms

A report from food waste charity Feedback investigates what role supermarkets play in the production of food waste on UK farms.

The report is based on a survey of UK farmers, Feedback’s research into supply chain food waste and experiences from Feedback’s Gleaning Network. It finds that the biggest cause of food waste identified by farmers is the rejection of produce for cosmetic reasons such as shape, size or colour. Farmers also grow more than necessary to be able to meet the terms of their contracts with the supermarkets, with contracts often forcing farmers, not supermarkets, to bear the risks of gluts, shortages or last-minute order cancellations. Farmers point to the large market share of supermarkets as a cause of lack of outlets for surplus or lower grade produce.

The report makes several recommendations to supermarkets, including:

  • Market ‘wonky’ produce with relaxed cosmetic standards
  • Set food waste reduction aims and report on progress
  • Pay farmers a fair price for the top quality ranges, to avoid reducing farmers’ income through the expansion of wonky produce lines
  • Supermarkets should take more of the risks from unpredictable yields

The report also suggests that UK policymakers should measure food waste on farms, set targets to reduce it and extend the Groceries Code Adjudicator to cover suppliers who work through middlemen.

Read the full report here. See also the Foodsource resource How are food losses and waste an environmental concern?

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