Food Waste - Why do farms have unsold produce?
Food that is never harvested:
Weather/disease. Natural phenomena harm crops and lead to excess planting to hedge against this risk.
Market conditions. A crop’s price at time of harvest may not warrant the labor and transport costs required to bring the product to market.
Buyer quality standards. Selective harvest for minimum quality standards and shelf life leads to crops’ being left in the field.
Labor shortages. Where harvest timing is critical, a labor shortage leads to lower harvest rate.
Food safety scares. Public fear related to food safety for specific products can lead to huge losses.
Food lost between harvest and sale:
Improper handling. Various kinds of mishandling, such as deliveries needing refrigeration that sit too long on the loading dock, can damage products.
Inconsistent refrigeration. Truck breakdowns and other mishaps can lead to spoilage due to lack of refrigeration.
Rejected shipments. By the time a shipment is rejected, its contents have a shorter shelf life and may be difficult to sell before spoiling.
Source: NRSC Issue Paper, August 2012 - Dana Gunders