United Kingdom experiences food waste

Orange Carrots on Brown Woven Basket

Due to climate change and the recent mild autumn, the UK has been experiencing a surplus of vegetables, including potatoes, cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli.

Apart from the surplus, this phenomenon also brings about a fear of a shortage of core vegetables next year. Many UK farmers have complained that they had to steer away from their routinely used sowing calendars, as sowing and harvesting timeframes have changed drastically from previous years.

Photos online have shown large quantities of vegetables being thrown away, including carrots and potatoes. 

Warmer weather has caused many crops to grow earlier than normally expected, leading to worries of shortages during crucial times such as the Christmas period.

Whilst specific farmers have been working with non-profit organisations to provide the excess food to those in need, this overabundance of vegetables has still caused an effect on the supply and demand of crops used by the UK daily.

UK farmers use their knowledge and experience to carefully sow and harvest vegetables when the market needs them and when the weather is optimised for such crops. With climate and temperatures varying widely, this has become more difficult and unpredictable. 

Guy Singh-Watson, the founder of the organic vegetable firm Riverford, is one of those entrepreneurs who has had his plans for the year change. He is also one of those working with non-profits, such as FareShare, to provide the excess food to those in need.

Businesses selling vegetables can run campaigns to encourage the public to consume more green vegetables that are in excess supply. However, experience has shown that there is a limit to how much demand can be increased using such methods.

Another problem with warmer weather is that not only the quantity of demand changes but also the type of demand. Warmer weather means that people will demand fewer vegetables associated with colder periods such as sprouts and cabbages.

Whilst some food is being given to charities, a large volume is being fed to livestock or simply thrown away, as supermarkets and large buyers rescind contracts to reflect the changing customer demands.

With cancelled arrangements and lower profit potential, certain farmers prefer opting to limit the number of vegetables produced, and instead adapt by growing vegetables which are more in demand with the milder, warmer weather. This problem is further aggravated due to the drought experienced by the UK in the summer, which has also disrupted the crops’ natural growing season.  

A number of climate action NGOs, including Wrap, are putting greater pressure on the government and businesses to increase efforts in reducing food waste and diminishing the general impact on the environment.

With more and more cases where businesses are impacted negatively by the effects of climate change, fighting global warming becomes a priority. Not only is it the ethical thing to do, but it also makes business sense in order to reduce any negative effects on profitability and future sustainability.

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