No public sector progress on buying British food, say farmers

20 September 2015

The UK government is failing to support British agriculture in its public sector food sourcing policies, a farmers’ association has claimed.

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has accused the government of a lack of commitment to source food for the public sector from British farmers.

The association said the government has made no progress in implementing recommendations from a government-commissioned report by Peter Bonfield last year. A Plan for Public Procurement outlined a framework where cost criteria were balanced against health and well-being, resource efficiency and quality of service, farm assurance, food waste management, and engagement with SMEs, as well as animal welfare, nutrition, and energy management.

In the report’s foreword, prime minister David Cameron said he wanted to “ensure that money is spent on nutritious and sustainable food, delivered by Britain’s thriving rural economy”.

TFA national chairman Stephen Wyrill said that despite the government’s rhetoric, no progress had been made in implementing the recommendations of the report and British farmers felt let down.

“British farmers are best placed to provide food to the public sector which matches these important criteria,” he said. “Too often we have heard stories of public sector establishments providing low-grade, cheap food to its clients because of inadequate sourcing policies. The food in our hospitals, schools and other public sector outlets, often dealing with some of the most vulnerable members of our society, should be of the highest quality.”

Wyrill added he hoped the support for British farmers announced by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last week signalled more action on public procurement. “Let’s hope that over the next year we see some concerted effort from the government to achieve this,” he said.

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