FARMERS and rural economies are set to reap the benefits of a new government pledge to adopt the ‘buy British’ philosophy to its food and drink and put hundreds of millions of pounds lost in imported produce back into the UK economy.
Schools, hospitals and other public sector organisations will be forced to apply a string of tough new buying standards and source sustainable, local, fresh food where possible from 2017, the Prime Minister David Cameron and newly-appointed environment secretary Liz Truss will announced today.
The public sector’s annual food and drink bill is £1.2billion, but every year £600million of that is spent on imported produce. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) estimates the new criteria, dubbed the ‘Plan for Public Procurement’, will help create around £400million of new business for British farmers, small businesses and rural economies.
Mr Cameron said: “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”.
Ms Truss said: “This move will mean that food served in canteens across the public sector can be more local, seasonal and tastier. It will help grow Britain’s first-class food and drink industry. This is a huge boost to British farmers and producers and for students, patients and employees who want to enjoy fantastic food.”
The standards have been developed using a review of public procurement carried out by Dr Peter Bonfield, carried out on behalf of Defra last year. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has been among the first organisations to welcome the move.
Deputy president Minette Batters said: “The aim to grow the amount of locally sourced food and drink, chimes with our own wider aspiration of growing the British farming industry.”