Almost 3 million tonnes of edible food – valued at £1.8 billion – goes to waste on UK farms each year, a new report estimates.
Combatting this food waste could boost farm profits and bolster UK food security, the report, released by WWF and Tesco, explains.
It also details the environmental footprint of on-farm food waste, which accounts for around 10% of emissions from UK farming.
In terms of wasted natural resources, producing this food requires an area of land nearly half the size of Wales, according to the report.
The scale of estimated food waste on UK farms has historically been excluded from industry and government data.
Because of this, food campaigners are calling for more action from the government and food firms to ensure greater transparency around on-farm food waste and to support farmers in tackling the issue.
Mandatory reporting of on-farm food waste, specifically for medium and large farms, must begin, the report says, to establish the full scale of the problem and to make it possible to track.
It also sets out how this data can be used to inform changes to retailer and government policies, which often drive on-farm food waste.
For example, crops can be lost before they are harvested due to labour shortages, or because late notice changes to orders mean there is a risk a harvested crop will remain unsold, which would leave farmers out of pocket. To avoid this risk, crops are sometimes left in the ground.
The report sets a target of halving on-farm food waste by 2030, and highlights the potential benefits such as improving UK food security and boosting farmers’ profits.
Recent analysis from food charity WRAP has shown a potential 20% increase in profits for farms if food surplus and waste is reduced to the minimum reported rates.
Kate Norgrove, executive director of advocacy and campaigns at the charity WWF, called for urgent action to fix this 'hidden crisis'.
“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.
“At the same time, ministers must reaffirm the government’s commitment to incentives that will drive a UK-wide shift to nature friendly farming, helping to futureproof our food system and bring our world back to life.”