Public purchasers 'could do more' on local food

29 November 2007
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29 November 2007 | Paul Snell

Just over half of all food bought by the public sector is from the UK.

Statistics released this month by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) revealed a wide disparity in the strategies of different central government departments to buying food domestically.

While Defra, the Department for International Development and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform source 75 per cent of their food from the UK, NHS Supply Chain, the Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs only buy 40 per cent from UK sources.

Clare Smith, assistant food chain adviser at the National Farmers' Union, said: "Statistics like these show they could probably do more. The PSFPI is government policy and a lot of departments are not working to it."

The government launched the Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative (PSFPI) in 2003, partly to improve the ability of local suppliers to win government contracts and meet demand.

There is also a big variation in the types of British food bought. While most public sector bodies purchase all their eggs and milk from this country, the proportion of British apples they buy is as low as 5 per cent in some departments.

A Defra spokesman said: "The government is committed to the PSFPI. Defra is working across government to promote this initiative and increase the amount of locally produced food purchased by public sector bodies. However, the UK is not self-sufficient in the production of food. It is important that we have a very robust and diverse food supply."

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