WRAP has announced various sector-wide projects with the aim of tackling food waste in primary production.
These projects have united farmers, growers, producers, hospitality & food service, businesses and retailers through the organisation‘s Courtauld Commitment 2025.
Projects have already begun looking at priority crops, including soft fruit, root vegetables and salad.
All projects address common issues that occur in production, and piloting innovative models, and interventions to overcome these difficulties.
The work will start developing guidance and best-practice to help others take action, as well as growing the working practices.
These projects are the result of a meeting lead by WRAP in 2016 and included the organisations Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) and the National Farmers Union (NFU).
WRAP head of sustainable food David Moon said: “Tackling food waste in primary production is a key area of Courtauld 2025 and it’s crucial that we have the facts to prioritise and direct action. We’re using our experience in mapping waste and bringing together key stakeholders to pinpoint where, why and how much waste arises on farm. This work will help the UK food supply chain become more efficient and competitive, which is crucial in the coming years. It is also critical that we have the support of retailers and producers collaborating on projects to develop and share best practice. It’s an exciting new area of work and we’re delighted to have the support of key sector groups.”
Strawberries and lettuce were two of the sectors examined, and the results estimated that £30 million ended up in waste in the UK in 2015.
The examination has found that just over 9% of mature strawberry crops ended up in waste in 2015, equivalent to 10,000 tonnes of product across the entire sector, and priced at £24 million.
Results for lettuce showed that 19% were unharvested in 2015, with 38,000 tonnes being lost across the sector and valued at £7 million.
The waste is due to factors related to forecasting and product specifications, as well as pest and damage disease.
Over the two sectors, WRAP discovered differentiation between producers- from 3% to 17% of strawberries ended up in waste, and between 7% and 47% for lettuce.
Although WRAP has not found a cause for the variation, it identified a scope to reduce food waste by discovering and sharing the best practice, and benchmarking supply chains.
WRAP believes that acknowledging food waste in primary production requires varied intervention and collaboration across the supply chain.
BRC director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie said: “We know cutting food waste on farm is key to developing a sustainable supply chain and we also know retailers are in a key position to do this, which is why they are already working with farmers to improve ordering and make the most of every crop. What we don’t know, however, is the total volume of waste to cut or the best way to do it which is why this report is so important and why it will set the agenda for practical changes which will make a real difference to farmers and the environment.”