Vegetables are the most commonly wasted food type in supermarkets, accounting for a 20% of waste, followed by fruit at 16%, a Fine Gael senator has stated.

Senator Tim Lombard, Fine Gael spokesperson for agriculture, said that food producers in Ireland are obliged to grow more food to counter the amount that will be discarded. Because of this, he has now called for the establishment of a food forum to tackle food waste.

Catalyst to change

The senator spoke of the pressure horticulturalists will face to meet demand for fruit and vegetable despite “excessive and needless waste”.

“With the number of growers reducing, this puts pressure on the less than 200 horticulture growers in Ireland to supply beyond what is needed, as this inevitable waste must be factored into production plans. A rising lofty attitude to imperfect looking vegetables and fruit has led to excessive and needless waste of produce that is perfectly nutritional,” he said.

Speaking of vegetable shortages that were seen at the beginning of this year, Lombard said: “Earlier this year we saw a nationwide shortage of certain Irish-grown vegetables, such as peppers.

“We also know that there may be difficulties later in the year with carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, broccoli, sprouts and cabbages. This should be the catalyst to change our approach to vegetables and fruit that are deemed ugly or wonky.

Wonky vegetables

Lombard spoke of the actions used in the UK to entice customers to buy "wonky" vegetables.

“UK retailers have ranges of so-called ‘wonky’ vegetables for sale at discount prices, which is one way to entice consumers. Other retailers have introduced competitively priced ‘surprise bags’ which can include imperfectly shaped fruit and vegetables,” he added.

The senator called on the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to establish a food forum “to bring together all stakeholders to discuss food waste and security, pricing and attitudes of retailers and consumers.

“Value can be achieved by both the producer and consumer by operating a more sustainable food chain from farm to fork in a way that is beneficial in the long term for all – but we need some innovation around how this produce is marketed,” the senator concluded.