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WWF and Tesco call for mandatory farm food waste reporting as millions of tonnes lost

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3 min read
AUTHOR: Molly Long
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food waste

Millions of tonnes of edible food are going to waste before it even leaves the farm, according to a joint report from WWF and Tesco.

The Hidden Waste report has revealed that the equivalent of 6.9 billion meals’ worth of food is wasted at the primary production stage of the food supply chain.

It is estimated the value of this loss is around £1.8 billion, and that it contributes 10% of the total greenhouse gas emissions produced by the country’s farming industry.

The problem of food waste is at its worst for fruit and vegetable producers. Data reveals some 1,098 KT of fruit and vegetables are wasted at farm stage in the UK. Meat and animal production is the second worst sector, with 803 KT of on-farm food waste produced annually.

There are many reasons as to why food doesn’t make it out of the farm gate. These can range from insufficient staffing leading to food left unharvested in fields, to restrictive standards post-farm gate that only allow for the most ‘perfect’ products.

To tackle the pervasive problem, WWF and Tesco have devised six recommendations for the UK Government. These are:

  1. Set binding targets for a 50% reduction in food waste from farm to fork: by implementing legally binding targets, UK Governments will be able to better monitor and review progress made by farms.
  2. Implement mandatory reporting of food surplus and waste: Defra should aim to implement this reporting system for medium and large farms from 2024 onwards, and for all post-farm gate medium and large businesses from 2023.
  3. Integrate food waste measurement and reporting into sustainable agriculture financial incentives: subsidies and funding programmes like Future Farm and the Farming Transformation Fund must consider food waste as part of their criteria for support.
  4. Redevelop animal agriculture practices and standards: the UK Government and farm certification scheme should seek to reform standards with the aim of minimising waste in livestock and animal products.
  5. Shift subsidies in favour of redistributing food instead of energy recovery: rather than focusing on financially supporting companies which deal with food waste (for example through anaerobic digestion), the Government should allocate more money towards companies helping to intercept food waste streams and distribute food to local communities before it ends up in the bin.
  6. Implement policy to improve supply chain practices which drive farm food waste: legislation which protects farmers from things like short-notice cancellations of perishable products or unilateral contract changes could help prevent on-farm waste.

So far, supermarkets Sainsbury’s and the Co-op have pledged their support to the report’s recommendations, as well as Red Tractor, WRAP and IGD.

Speaking about the report and its recommendations, WWF’s Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, Kate Norgrove, said: “Given the cascade of benefits that tackling food waste on farms could bring – from bolstering our food security to helping address the climate crisis –  [the] UK Government and businesses across the food sector must take urgent action to support farmers in slashing food loss and waste on farms, as part of wider efforts to drive down waste across the food system.”

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