Rishu Sunak Minette Batters NFU

Source: Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street

Rishi Sunak has pledged to subsidise surplus food redistribution to the tune of £15m

The Grocer has campaigned for years to reduce the scandalous amounts of waste in the food and drink supply chain. There have been more highs than lows as the industry has moved mountains of surplus produce out of skips and tips and incinerators and into (ever increasing numbers of) hungry mouths.

So it was difficult to know how to react to PM Rishi Sunak’s pledge at the NFU Conference to subsidise surplus food redistribution to the tune of £15m once again.

On the one hand, resecuring from the government the funding The Grocer’s Waste Not Want Not campaign first helped to procure in 2018 – only for the government to pull the plug the following year after an appallingly ill-targeted distribution of the funds – is infuriating.

What a waste, literally as well as figuratively, in the intervening years, and at a time when the need has been even greater. The only comfort has been seeing the industry itself step up to the plate, with hard work, collaboration, innovation and investment dramatically reducing food waste in factories and supermarkets.

As a result, the biggest issue facing the food surplus redistribution sector today is that traditional excess volumes are drying up – a situation that has resulted in sometimes unhealthy competition among operators scrabbling to secure much-needed supply.

On the other hand, it’s precisely the increasingly limited supply from these traditional sources that makes news of the government’s subsidy so important and so timely. The funds will give the sector access to the biggest untapped source of food surplus in the sector: the estimated 3.3 million tonnes of food wasted before it even leaves the farm.

We don’t yet know how long the funds have been secured for. We don’t know how it will be distributed. Or by whom. And it’s not as much as FareShare was asking for. But we do know it’s being earmarked purely for surplus food redistribution. And we do know it can work, with initial trials from FareShare delivering up to 10 times the value of the food surplus.