waste water leak hose farming

Urgent action is needed by food companies to tackle water waste, with a new report from Wrap showing only a handful have joined its flagship initiative to face up to the crisis since it launched two years ago.

An update on Wrap’s Water Roadmap this week showed while the number of businesses signed up had risen from 55 to 60 in the past 12 months, many were still failing to effectively map water loss and fewer still were involved in funding collective action projects to take action to secure global water supplies.

Wrap launched the initiative in November 2021 as part of the Courtauld Commitment 2030 target for 50% of the UK’s fresh food to be sourced from areas with sustainable water management.

While the likes of Asda, Co-op, Coca-Cola GB, M&S, Nestlé, Sainsbury’s and Tesco were involved from the start, Wrap was hoping all major UK food and drink organisations would support the plans.

The UK imports more than 80% of its fruit and 40% of its vegetables, predominantly from water-stressed countries.

Closer to home, fewer than 20% of rivers in England are in good overall health. Agriculture has the biggest impact on this, affecting nearly two-thirds of our river water bodies.

To date, Wrap’s roadmap has seen 100 local stakeholders and more than 800 farmers involved in collective action, with more than 300 farm visits carried out.

Wrap has launched over 60 farm management plans in place in at-risk food sourcing areas.

But it said much more was needed to hit the target.

The slow take-up by companies of measures to tackle water waste follow this year’s enforced relaunch of the industry’s Food Waste Roadmap, which saw some of its ambitions watered down after it failed to hit key targets because of the pandemic and cost of living crisis.

“There has been progress moving towards the 2023 Water Roadmap targets, but there is still much work to do if we’re to stay on track and address the negative impacts of producing our food in already water stressed areas,” said Wrap director of behaviour change and business programmes Catherine David.

“We welcome the efforts made to date, but urgently need more businesses to move towards water risk awareness and action.”

Coen Frederiks, fresh fruit & vegetable programme manager at IDH, added: “We are really pleased to be working alongside Wrap in areas of shared priority like Spain and Peru. By bringing our respective members, networks, resources and expertise together, we can build a much stronger base for success.

“We look forward to collaborating further and working together to make our value chains more sustainable and more resilient.”