In a speech to the Local Government Association’s Rural Conference on Wednesday, Mr Paterson was due to say sourcing more food locally will help boost the rural economy by supporting British farmers and reducing food miles without increasing costs.
He was due to reiterate the Government’s drive to ‘make a significant dent in the 22 per cent of food that’s imported’ to the UK, alongside promoting exports.
The Defra Secretary recently hosted a meeting with farmers, manufactures and retailers to discuss ways to achieve this.
He said: “We’re now looking at how we can work together with the industry to make it easier for businesses to grow in the UK market
“Businesses alone won’t make a big enough impact, we in Government need to play our part. The 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 cited the Cornwall Food Programme, which supplies the Royal Cornwall Hospital as well as St Michaels and the West of Cornwall Hospital, as a ‘great example’ of how to support local food.
He said: “They have increased the amount of fresh, local food they use. This has boosted the local economy, reduced environmental impacts and improved the quality. These improvements have been made with no additional cost. As we seek to spread best practice across the country, I’d love to hear from you of any similar examples.
“Imagine the impact if every school, care home and leisure centre were buying from their local area.”
In a separate speech on the same day, NFU Vice President Adam Quinney will urge 250 foodservice professionals to up their sourcing of British ingredients.
Speaking at the Craft Guild of Chefs Universal Cookery and Food Festival today in Hampshire he will urge chefs to help reverse the decline in the nation’s food self-sufficiency which has fallen to 62 per cent.
“You buy £10 billion worth of food every year and some of that is British. But there are definitely opportunities for that to increase and get more British food on more British plates.
“As caterers serving the best standard of food you can, I know quality and value is important to you, as well as knowing that the product you buy has been safely produced to high animal welfare and environmental standards. Let’s remember all British food is world class, 75 per cent of which is inspected under the Red Tractor Farm assurance scheme, and our recent Back British farming campaign showed that the support from the public is there.”