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Potatoes South Australia Chief:

"Australia’s food waste problem starts at the farm"

Australian studies indicate that around 25 per cent of horticulture production is lost inside the farm gate. Most of this is thought to be avoidable with approximately 80 per cent of these losses able to be eliminated. The potato industry is the most significant but disproportionate contributor to this waste, as Potatoes South Australia's Chief Executive Officer explains:

I recently completed a project investigating the need for Australian agricultural and horticultural industries to increase productivity through decreasing food loss and waste in the value chain, particularly at the farm gate at a regional level. My focus was the potato industry which is the world’s third largest food crop.

The project allowed me to travel to Europe to review practices in other countries.

One of the real problems in food production is the waste that results from “grading-out”. This is the problem of food not being accepted by the retailer because it does not comply with a grading criteria – you know; funny looking carrots or weird shaped potatoes!

Europe is really great at getting waste out of the horticultural industry. Use of by-products/co-streams has enabled a maximising approach to the use of food generally. This is the result of EU Government-led initiative to curb waste entirely across the horticultural value chain. This has resulted from an environmental perspective, not an economic one … but there are important economic benefits to be had here!

There is no doubt that the environmental imperative driven by many small land holders conducting primary production on limited acreage provides a completely different perspective to waste transformation and reduction to the issues confronted in the Australian environment. The fundamental issues of value-adding are however, the same.

The Australian industry and the Government at all levels are failing in their response to reducing ‘waste’, increasing profitability at farm gate and in turn contributing to the nation’s GDP.

What is lacking is innovation. Innovation in packaging, product and promotion. The processing sector in Europe is taking responsibility for waste reduction by adopting a total chain approach. It is working transparently with its supply chains in a non-competitive way to reduce food losses starting on farm.

I also found that EU (including the UK) research and technology was comparatively advanced in the transformation of 'waste' into value-added products; especially food for human consumption.

There is an urgent requirement for an industry-led, Government-supported Food Waste Fund to be developed in Australia to enable investigation, innovation and alleviation of the industry-wide productivity drain caused by on-farm food losses. Let's hope that the South Australian-led 'Fight Food Waste & Fraud' CRC Bid get's up!


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