Government promised boost to UK farmers - article from Big Issue in the North magazine date 12-18 October 2018.
The government has been accused by farmers of letting them down by failing to keep to a commitment to ensure Britain’s food producers are prioritised when public sector food contracts are awarded.
A government- commissioned report by Dr Peter Bonfield last year set out a plan for public sector procurement for food and catering. This included considering the ethical and environmental credentials of food producers and “working with the food industry, researchers and farmers to support opportunities for British-grown produce and food”.
Bonfield had to be mindful of EU legislation that prevents anti-competitive practices but he pointed out that the public sector spends £2.4 billion annually procuring food and catering services. The public sector was estimated to spend £0.6 billion on imported produce.
Bonfield’s recommendations were welcomed by David Cameron, who said: “I want to ensure money is spent on nutritious and sustainable food, delivered by Britain’s rural economy... Central government departments are already committed to using this procurement framework – and I expect many hospitals and schools to do the same.”
‘All mouth, no trousers’
Last month the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) criticised the government for lacking commitment.
Its chairman Stephen Wyrill said: “The British government has been all mouth and no trousers on its food procurement policy. No progress has been made in implementing the Bonfield report.”
In response to this complaint – and the plight of dairy farmers struggling with low milk prices – Elizabeth Truss, environment secretary, claimed there would be a “new review of public sector food-buying habits, including hospitals, schools and prisons, to understand where more support could be offered”.
But TFA chief executive George Dunn asked: “Why are we still waiting? Has anything been achieved since 2014? Are there moves to draw up practical plans in all food sectors for public sector procurement?”
Big Issue North put these points to Truss’s department, which replied by sending her earlier statement.
“Nice words butter no parsnips. We require action,” said Dunn.