According to a new survey, Tasmanian fruit and vegetable farmers are collectively losing $145 million in profit resulting from 1,140 tons of produce being thrown away on farms each year.
The Tasmanian Food Cluster survey set out to determine the level of on-farm and processing losses in the horticultural sector in Tasmania, and found that 1050 tons of fruit and 90 tons of vegetables were discarded. This represented a market value loss of $997 million, which was a 5.3 per cent loss of total profits.
Food loss refers to the product left in the paddock or on the orchard floor, or product that was harvested but not shipped out from the grower, but some farmers taking part in the survey did not regard product that was left unharvested as food loss.
Tasmanian Food Cluster spokesman Ian Locke said now the food loss figure had been quantified, steps could now be taken to convert those losses into opportunities for value added foods. "We believe by bringing in contingency improvements it will not be difficult to reduce these losses. We weren't surprised by the results but believe there are a number of outcomes that need to be further investigated."
Locke said one of these investigations would be to compare the 2019 food loss results with the 2020 results, which will compare a good growing year's food loss with a bad growing year's losses. He said further investigations into what is considered food loss on farm were also needed.
"There is an old farming adage that says the best place to leave a crop is in the ground, so when you have challenges from a poor market, or with the way a crop is grown, the most effective thing to do is plough it back into the ground," he said. "This may sound like a terrible thing but the cost to harvest, wash, grade, pack and get the product exceeds what the product is worth. But we want to review this a bit further. "
Locke said this latest survey resulted from the Food Innovation Hub Tasmania Forum in 2019, and the Australian government's objective to halve and reduce national food losses by 2030.
"Food loss surveys were undertaken throughout mainland Australia and they were using those results as being applicable to Tasmania. We decided to do a survey with Tasmanian fruit and vegetable growers to identify what our loss was, and so we could compare what is happening in Tasmania to what is happening in the mainland."
Theadvocate.com.au reported that the key results from the survey will be discussed in an online webinar on July 8.