British farmers to benefit from public procurement plan

Prime Minister, David Cameron has announced a potential £400m boost for British food businesses in a move that has been backed by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).

Cameron told an audience at the Royal Welsh Show today (21 July) that as of 2017 the English public sector will be committed to buying fresh, locally sourced, seasonal food in what is called the Plan for Public Procurement. The public sector currently spends £1.2bn on food and drink, £600m of which is imported produce and, according to the government, £400m of which could be sourced in the UK.

Cameron stated: “Our long-term economic plan is all about backing the do-ers and the hard-workers – and no one does more or works as hard in Britain today than our farmers. By opening up these contracts, we can help them create more jobs, invest in their businesses and make sure people in our country have a healthier lifestyle. It’s a triple win – and will mean a brighter future for our country.”

Public sector buyers will now judge potential suppliers against five key criteria: how food is produced and whether the food was produced locally; the health and nutritional content of food purchased; the resource efficiency of producing the food, such as water and energy use and waste production; how far the food bought meets government’s socio-economic priorities such as involvement of SMES; and quality of service and value for money.

The Plan for Public Procurement states that central government will open up £200m with “the expectation” the rest of the public sector, including schools and hospitals, will also use the criteria.

Newly appointed environment secretary Elizabeth Truss added: “This move will mean that food served in canteens across the public sector can be more local, seasonal and tastier.”

The plan, based on research by Dr Peter Bonfield’s review into public produce procurement, was applauded by the NFU who have been calling for retailers to promote British beef and lamb.

The NFU said it was “delighted” with the news. “We applaud the work that Dr Peter Bonfield has done to develop a new architecture for public sector procurement that aims to put more British food on public sector plates. That aim, to grow the amount of locally sourced food and drink, chimes with our own wider aspiration of growing the British farming industry,” said NFU Deputy President Minette Batters.

“Of course saying that more British food is sourced to our standards of production is one thing. To ensure that this happens on the ground, it’s important that public sector buyers and caterers know that they can easily meet the plans aims by simply sourcing food to Red Tractor standards, the widely recognised mark of British food production standards,” Batters concluded.

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