National Farmers' Federation

Farmers to benefit from a national strategy to reduce food waste

National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President Fiona Simson says all Australians, including farmers, will benefit from a focussed, national effort to reduce food waste.
Ms Simson represented the farm sector on the National Food Waste Advisory Group that today unveiled a national strategy to tackle the social and economic problem.
“The loss of fresh produce during agricultural production and in households during consumption constitutes the largest waste of food in Australia,” Ms Simson said.
Ms Simson said it was estimated that overall on-farm losses represented about 10 per cent of gross food production, valued at $4 billion.
“All too often fruit and vegetables that do not meet required specifications by retailers are cast aside.
“For example, bananas and mangoes that are too small, but otherwise perfectly ok, or cucumbers that are not a uniform shape.
“This is not only a loss of nutritious food that could help feed Australians it is a hit to the bottom lines of farmers who have spent time and money producing these crops.”
Ms Simson said it was perverse that Australians were not eating enough vegetables yet edible produce was being left in the field or in the crisper in the home fridge.
In addition, to farm and home food waste, commerce and industry dispose of 3.1 million tonnes of food that attractive disposal charges of $10.5 billion each year.
Ms Simson said the potential to increase agriculture productivity by reducing food waste was real.
“Farm productivity improvement is difficult to deliver; addressing food loss reduction offers a simpler way to improve farm gate profits.
“On-farm efficiencies could also be increased by improving harvesting techniques and finding new ways to turn food that was previously wasted or lost into usable and profitable products.
“Increasing efficiences is an ongoing aim of Australia’s primary production as it strives to make more from less in an environment of changing climate and spiralling input costs.
Ms Simson said the farm sector was already investing significant resources to investigate methods to avoid, reuse and recycle food waste through the Rural Research and Development Corporations and the Rural R&D for Profit Programme.
“There is an opportunity to leverage the product and practice innovation in the paddock to ensure that these gains are transferred through to the plate of consumers.
“Simultaneously, there is the chance to grow and drive greater demand for the fresh produce that fails to make it to market based on rejection purely on consumer and supermarket cosmetic standards or culinary trends.
Ms Simson said there was also scope to address edible produce left in the field by addressing national workforce strategies.
“Much horticultural production means more seasonal work at peak harvest times and more pressure on the horticulture industry to find enough reliable labour to harvest edible produce on time.”
Ms Simson encouraged the Government to give focussed consideration to the National Food Waste Strategy, announced today.
“There is very little to lose and a whole lot to gain, socially and economically, from adopting the steps to minimise food waste outlined in the Strategy.
“Implemented correctly, the strategy will deliver positive benefits for Australians for generations to come.”

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