Buy local food, public sector urged
Wednesday 4th September 2013, 12:10AM BST.
Schools and hospitals should buy more food produced in their local areas to help boost the rural economy, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is urging.
Public sector organisations have a role to play in buying local produce, which supports British farmers and can cut food miles without increasing costs, he will say in a speech to the Local Government Association’s rural conference in Warwick.
The rural economy is worth £211 billion a year, and supports a third of businesses, despite being home to just one fifth of the population, according to figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Food and farming is the UK’s biggest manufacturing sector but in 2011, the UK imported nearly £37.6 billion worth of food, compared to exports worth £18.2 billion.
Mr Paterson will tell delegates: “As well as promoting exports, we need to make a significant dent in the 22% of food that’s imported but could be produced here.”
The Government, farmers and industry are looking at how to make it easier for businesses to grow in the UK market, he will say.
“Businesses alone won’t make a big enough impact, we in Government need to play our part. T he Government has set public procurement standards for food through the Government Buying Standard. I believe that local government has a huge part to play in supporting, and benefitting from, this agenda.”
He will point to the Cornwall food programme which supplies the Royal Cornwall Hospital, St Michael’s Hospital and the West Cornwall Hospital, which has increased the amount of fresh, local food used.
“This has boosted the local economy, reduced environmental impacts and improved the quality. These improvements have been made with no additional cost.
“Imagine the impact if every school, care home and leisure centre were buying from their local area,” he will say.