Crops being wasted on British farms despite food bank woes, industry boss says

Good food is routinely going to waste on farms across the country due to a lack of workers, the head of the National Farmers’ Union has said.

Minette Batters said there was an “absolute crisis”, meaning food was being ploughed back into land on farms.

This is despite more people relying on food banks and an increase in the cost of many products since the war in Ukraine, which is a major worldwide supplier of grain crops.

She told Times Radio: “It’s a growing problem.

UK food standards
National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters has said there is a lack of labourers across the industry (Fototek/PA)

“I know glasshouses where tomatoes remain unpicked, we know there was a big crop of lettuces that was ploughed back in last week.

“Growers are extremely reluctant to put their name to this because it will massively compromise their business with their contractual relationship going forwards.

“So there is a real nervousness about speaking out on food waste on farms but it is happening at scale.”

She added: “We have food banks at full stretch, and yet we are wasting fantastic quality, nutritious products on farms.”

Foodbank stock
Food laid out in crates at a food bank in north London, amid a rise in the number of people relying on handouts (Luciana Guerra/PA)

Ms Batters said the labour shortage was an issue across the whole supply chain, “from farm to fork”, and was not just related to a lack of seasonal workers post-Brexit.

She said: “Having a business in the UK is becoming extremely problematic.”

She said she urged the Prime Minister last week to arrange a meeting between Home Secretary Priti Patel and food growers to discuss issues facing the industry.

She said: “There is nothing more important for a government than being able to feed its people and every retailer I speak to the demand is there for consumers wanting to buy more British, more local, play their part in the climate change challenge.

“And so we have to be able to fulfil that.”

It comes as research earlier this month signalled that the number using a food bank has jumped from one in 10 to nearly one in six since last year.