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This week, National Farmers' Federation (NFF) President, Fiona Simson, represented the farm sector on the National Food Waste Advisory Group that unveiled a national strategy that supports collective action towards halving Australia's food waste by 2030.
The country's first-ever National Food Waste Strategy was launched at the inaugural National Food Waste Summit on Monday.
Food waste has environmental, economic and social implications for all Australians.
The estimated cost of food waste to Australian economy is $20 billion per year.
Of the food waste disposed in landfill in 2014-15, 7.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent will be released over the life of its decay.
Although we produce enough food to feed about 60 million people, one food rescue organisation is turning away over 65,000 people each month.
The National Food Waste Strategy identifies four priority areas – policy support, business improvements, market development and behaviour change – that will help reach the 2030 goal.
NFF President Fiona Simson says all Australians, including farmers, will benefit from a focussed, national effort to reduce food waste.
Ms Simson said it was estimated that overall on-farm losses represented about 10 per cent of gross food production, valued at $4 billion.
“The loss of fresh produce during agricultural production and in households during consumption constitutes the largest waste of food in Australia,” Ms Simson said.
“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.
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.
Fiona Simson, President, NFF
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.”
The initial funding commitment is $1.37 million over 24 months. This funding will be used to support:
an independent organisation (Food Innovation Australia Limited) that will develop an implementation plan as well as a monitoring and evaluation framework for the strategy and coordinate priority areas of work;
a voluntary commitment program that will initially engage businesses and industries to commit to actions that reduce food waste; and
a National Food Waste Baseline so that we can monitor and track progress towards our food waste reduction goal.