The U.K. government has announced that from 2017, central government will commit to buying fresh, locally sourced, seasonal food through a new, simplified food- and drink-buying standard. All food that can be bought locally will be bought locally.

The public sector in England spends GBP1.2 billion (US$2.05 billion) every year on food and drink. Up to GBP600 million of that is spent on imported produce – GBP400 million of which could be sourced from within the U.K. The commitment from central government to use the new buying standard means that just over half of the GBP400 million will be available to British farmers.

In addition, the wider public sector will be encouraged and supported in using the new framework with the expectation that all schools and hospitals will, in the future, serve more locally reared meats and freshly picked fruit and vegetables. 

Public sector buyers will judge potential suppliers against five key criteria:

  • How food is produced and whether the food was produced locally;
  • The health and nutritional content of the food purchased;
  • The resource efficiency of producing the food, such as water and energy use and waste production;
  • How far the food bought meets government socio-economic priorities, such as involvement of small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs); and
  • Quality of service and value for money.

In addition to backing local and sustainable food, the new standards prioritize procurement from smaller producers, thereby helping SMEs gain access to the lucrative public sector market.

The country’s National Farmers Union commented that it was delighted to play its part in ensuring that the public sector sources more locally produced food, adding that it was looking forward to building a strategic plan to grow British agriculture.

Poultry research funding

The announcement was made as 15 Agri-Tech projects submissions were selected to receive a share of GBP18 million of funding from the government and industry to help accelerate agricultural innovation and their commercial viability.

Agri-Tech offers funding to innovative businesses and researchers to develop solutions to global agricultural challenges, and among winning submissions was a project being leg by Cobb-Europe, working with the Roslin Institute, looking at preservation and sequencing technology to address food security and production efficiency in the poultry sector.