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UK public sector sourcing plan backs local food industry

As part of a new food and drink buying standard,  UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that from 2017 all of central government will commit to source public sector food locally.

The Plan for Public Procurement’ states that buying fresh, locally-sourced and seasonal food will benefit British farmers, small businesses, rural economies as well as the British public. It also states that “all food that can be bought locally will be bought locally”.

The plan states that the following criteria will be analysed when judging potential suppliers:

  • How food was produced and whether the food was produced locally
  • The health and nutritional content of the food
  • The resource efficiency of producing the food, such as water and energy use and waste production
  • How far the food bought meets government’s socio-economic priorities such as involvement of SMEs (small-to-medium enterprises)
  • The quality of service and value for money
  • The plan proposes a new but voluntary approach, involving use of a balanced scorecard and an e-marketplace, to improve food procurement in the public sector.

The plan focuses on:

  • provision of a “toolkit” which enables food procurers to consider a variety of factors when making decisions about procurement
  • working together with industry, procurers, researchers and farmers to support opportunities for British grown produce and food within the public procurement market
  • ongoing work to develop the toolkit through five different working groups covering procurers, suppliers, research and technology bodies (focusing on innovation), assurance schemes and Local Enterprise Partnerships

Read more in a press release from the government here. You can also read this policy paper about ‘The Plan for Public Procurement’ here and see a discussion on the new plan in this article.

We’d be very interested in the views of FCRN members on these new plans.  Are the plans far reaching enough?  How is local defined and what, if any, are the merits (environmental, economic, health) of a local focus for the UK?  The standards are voluntary – is this good enough? Are there similar standards elsewhere in the world and how effective are they?  Please do post your comments below this post on our website (you will need to be logged in to do so, see here in case you have forgot your login). 

See also our research library sections on food policies and public procurement.

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