Around 3.6 million tonnes of food surplus and waste occur in primary production every year, worth £1.2 billion according figures released today by Wrap, the waste-reduction body.
Agricultural food waste tops 1.6 million tonnes with 2 million tonnes of surplus – equivalent to 7% of total annual UK food harvest.
Sugar beet, potatoes and carrots made up more than half of the overall waste by weight, with the top ten products (see notes) accounting for 80% of the total weight. When grouped by product type, horticultural crops make up 54% of the total, cereals 30%, livestock 8% and milk 8%.
A significant factor is also the percentage of a crop that becomes waste. For example, of the top twenty foods listed milk has the highest total production by weight at nearly 15 million tonnes. In this case, 116,000 tonnes of milk waste arose representing 0.8% of total production. While for lettuces, the percentage of waste is nearly 25% of total production (104,000 tonnes).
Peter Maddox, Director WRAP says:
“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.
“Given the scale and challenge of gathering data from the sector, we are calling on businesses and researchers to share their insights with us through our collaborative data sharing platform. This provides a simple way to share data with WRAP, which can be combined into a living evidence base. This will help bring more clarity to an issue that is happening around the globe.”