WRAP have published funded by Defra and undertaken by 3Keel and the Univesity of Warwick on the levels of crop waste in strawberry and lettuce production. The research was featured on BBC’s Farming Today programme on 28th September 2017 (accessible here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b095ptt1).
For the two sectors it assessed, strawberries and lettuce, WRAP estimates that £30 million ended up as waste in the UK, in 2015. This waste was the result of a complex set of factors relating to forecasting and product specifications, and pest and disease damage, being cited most frequently.
The study estimates that just over nine per cent of mature strawberry crops ended up as waste in 2015, equivalent to 10,000 tonnes of product across the whole sector and valued at £24 million. The main causes for this were linked to product not meeting quality requirements, primarily as a result of fruit being misshapen or suffering from pest or disease-related damage. For lettuce, WRAP found that around nineteen per cent of all lettuces were unharvested in 2015, with 38,000 tonnes lost across the sector worth an estimated £7 million. Although weather related impacts will always be challenging, more accurate forecasting by both growers and their customers was cited as the main action to prevent lettuce crops going to waste, together with changes to specifications for head sizes.
In both sectors WRAP found considerable variation between producers – between 3% and 17% of production ended up as waste for strawberries, and 7% to 47% for lettuce. Whilst there is currently uncertainty around what causes this variation, it demonstrates scope to reduce waste by identifying and sharing best practice, and benchmarking different supply chains.
WRAP believes that addressing food waste in primary production requires a combination of different interventions (depending on the sector) and a collaborative approach across the supply chain. This would involve, for example, better supply and demand management in lettuce value chains and, for strawberries, greater flexibility is required to enhance supply chain management, and consideration of new varieties.