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21 July 2014 | Will Green
The UK government is aiming to give British farmers a boost with a commitment to buying locally-produced food.
Under a new voluntary standard public sector buyers will judge potential suppliers against criteria including how and where food is produced, resource efficiency and how far it meets government socio-economic priorities, such as the involvement of SMEs.
Prime minister David Cameron, speaking at the Royal Welsh Show today, announced that from 2017 all central government would use the standard, called the Plan for Public Procurement, when buying food.
“Our long-term economic plan is all about backing the doers and the hard-workers – and no one does more or works as hard in Wales and the rest of Britain today than our farmers,” said Cameron.
“By opening up these contracts, we can help them create more jobs, invest in their businesses and make sure people in Wales have a healthier lifestyle. It’s a triple win – and will mean a brighter future for our country.”
The public sector in England spends £1.2 billion on food and drink each year, of which up to half is spent on imported produce. Of this produce, £400 million could be sourced within the UK, according to the government.
The commitment from central government to use the new standard means just over £200 million of spend will potentially be available to British farmers, while the wider public sector will be “encouraged and supported in using the new framework with the expectation that all schools and hospitals will in future serve more locally reared meats and freshly picked fruit and vegetables”.
The Plan for Public Procurement has been produced following a review into public food procurement carried out by Peter Bonfield and commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The plan includes provision of a toolkit to help food buyers consider a variety of factors when making procurement decisions and works to support opportunities for British-grown produce.
Meanwhile, 15 agri-tech projects have been told they will receive a share of £18 million of government and industry funding to boost agricultural innovation in the areas of crops, livestock and “aquaculture”.