FOOD WASTE: the disquieting effects of the supermarkets' contracts with farmers
Yesterday I listened to Farming Today
with mounting alarm even some incredulity. Anyone who is interested in a sustainable planet and who missed this important edition
ought to listen to it on the BBC’s iPlayer.
I was first alerted to the scale of the waste some months ago by a truck-driver friend who drives in Yorkshire. Last night he phoned from his cab in Scotland to report about his back-load of pallets of apples that had been rejected by a supermarket.
There is huge waste of perfectly good fruit and vegetables. There is nothing wrong with them, but they are the wrong size, shape or colour.
This is defined by the supermarkets in their contracts with farmers.
This is bad enough, but it gets worse.
Farmers, in order to make sure they meet their contractual obligations, can over-plant by 25%
knowing that a significant proportion of their produce will be rejected. Surely the food that is the wrong shape and size can still find a market, amongst those less fussy and/or poorer?
The supermarkets require
that any food produced under contract for them and rejected by them is not re-sold
. Much of it ends up ploughed back into the soil.
Every year 6.7 million tonnes of food are thrown away. That's about £10,000,000,000-worth according to the Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn.
In my opinion, in a world of limited resources, financially challenged inhabitants and some going hungry, it is the supermarket contracts with the growers that are the wrong size and shape.
Supermarkets are leading consumers to believe that nature grows more consistently than it really does. Should we expect this?
to the Farming Today
story. [begins at the 2:00 minute mark]