Farmers were being forced to overproduce or risk losing their contracts.
Supermarkets’ ‘outsized power’ in the supply chain has led farmers to waste 10 to 16 per cent of their fruit and vegetable crop, according to a new report by Feedback.
The ‘Farmers talk food waste: how supermarkets drive waste on farms’ report has revealed farmers were forced to overproduce to ensure they could meet buyers’ orders or risk losing their contracts.
Those surveyed represented 2.6 per cent of fruit and vegetable production but their waste could provide 250,000 people with their five a day for a year.
Consumer and retailer ‘fussiness’ was named as the most significant driver of waste and around half of the farmers surveyed said retailers used cosmetic standards as an excuse to reject produce when they can get a cheaper price elsewhere or demand fell.
One farmer said they waste on average 25 per cent of their carrots, amounting to 1,750 tonnes per year, because they are rejected for being too small, large, or wonky.
It comes after the Government identified fresh evidence of unfair trading in the groceries supply chain, but stepped back from calls to extend the protection of the government ombudsman to cover indirect suppliers.
The adjudicator’s remit does not currently cover indirect suppliers, severely weakening the protection offered to farmers who supply retailers through middlemen.
Forecast and promotion failures were also driving waste, with half of respondents not compensated for the costs incurred due to forecasting errors by retailers.
Carina Millstone, Executive Director of Feedback, said: “Despite a government and industry focus on food waste occurring in homes, our pioneering research finds that waste on farms, often a result of supermarkets’ outsized power in the supply chain, is significant and pervasive.
“Supermarkets need to recognise their part in driving food waste on the farms in their supply chain- and work with their suppliers to reduce this waste.
She called on all major retailers to follow Tesco lead and commit to helping their suppliers achieve 50 per cent food waste reductions between 2015 and 2030.
“The government’s decision not to extend the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator to cover smaller, indirect suppliers is huge blow for both food waste prevention and farmers struggling with their bottom line: the government should reconsider this decision, or risk a wasted opportunity to demonstrate real support for the people who grow our food.”