The startling figure, which represents 20 per cent of the value of every product being leaked from field to fork, is the final conclusion reached by the FCC after conducting a two-year pilot programme using its "lean thinking" method.
The study has given the food industry its first major business insight into efficiencies.
It looked at seven whole chain products including fresh leeks, reducing waste and increasing value, the School Fruit & Vegetable Scheme and pea production.
For all the products FCC examined, more than 95 per cent of the time between harvesting and consumer purchase was redundant and added no value.
The lean thinking approach found that despite some people understanding consumer needs, this information was not shared along the chain.
It identified six ways that wasteful activities typically impact in the industry, such as understanding what value is from the point of view of the customer, tracking and reducing product loss through the chain, and harvesting effectiveness.
With leek production alone, the FCC Value Chain Analysis showed it is possible to reduce costs by 40 per cent, improve quality by 34 per cent and reduce delivery lead time by 81 per cent.
The work was done in partnership with Cardiff Business School and the Industry Forum and was supported throughout the industry.
- For an in-depth look at the FCC's findings across the sectors see next week's Grower.