Another two years to deliver

Defra gets £500,000 to deliver on Government's food strategy


The Government has given Defra £500,000 for a further two years to deliver on the Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative (PSFPI). It means Sir Don Curry will remain as chairman of the Implementation Group for Farming and Food Strategy which will deliver the initiative through a number of streams, including workshops and seminars, for buyers and sellers in the sector.

"The Government is building on Margaret Becket's speech to the National Farmer's Union where she said the Government is supportive of farming and agriculture and that the Public Service Food Initiative is a shining example of the Government's sustainable development policy," said Tony Goodger, MLC

trade sector manager foodservice.

At the Defra implementation meeting in London last month, buyers and suppliers from the Food Procurement Implementation Group and the Joint Implementation Group heard that some butchers had not grasped the market opportunities offered by the public service catering sector.

"We found only three butchers in Yorkshire who wanted to deal with schools as they only offer business 38 weeks a year. Plus schools also tend to vary in size with some requiring 200 meals a week and others 1,000 a week. Catering butchers just want to deliver to larger schools," said Mr Goodger. However, he pointed out that catering butchers should not forget that the NHS was unlikely to go bust and were good payers. "The contracts are two-to-three years long and butchers only need to supply nine core products."

Mr Goodger is planning to prepare a standardised specification for the public catering sector so that all buyers and suppliers in the country are "singing off the same hymn sheet". He is also keen to change the way butchers use suppliers.

"Butchers always use the same traders. It is essential that they connect with other local abattoirs and processors and are aware of the different assurance schemes they work to. Abattoirs can help them with carcase balance and farmers can be included in the chain so that they meet the key requirements of the Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative."

According to Mr Goodger, many local authorities are still sending out specifications written 14 or 15 years ago. "They have not even looked at reducing fat in meat products. One local authority was specifying vacuum packed meat in waxed cardboard boxes. If it had changed the specification to returnable plastic trays it would have taken out an element of cost."

He said he would be challenging buyers in the Society of Purchasing Officers in Local Government to look at the way they delivered and how anomalies could be straightened out to make the English product more viable to buy.

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