MPs urge government to back British on public procurement

Published 23 April 2021

Farm business
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A new report published by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee has called on the government to 'update public sector food procurement standards and support small producers' following an inquiry into Public Sector Procurement of Food.

The NFU submitted evidence to the inquiry, which investigated:

  • The effectiveness of current procurement rules and standards
  • What the government’s priorities for future food procurement should be
  • To what extent the public sector should be encouraged to buy British

What's the NFU position?

The NFU welcomes the recommendations outlined in the report. The EFRA committee has clearly understood the need to support British farmers and purchase British food in the public sector, and the report clearly outlines the current challenges around British food producers supplying public sector contracts.

The NFU believes the government must lead by example in setting high standards for food procurement, which would give more British people the chance to eat healthier and more environmentally sustainable food produced by British producers and businesses to world-leading standards and there should be no loophole for government to purchase food produced to lower standards for the public sector.

The NFU believes that driving best practice and accountability can only be delivered through auditing and monitoring of public sector bodies and we again urge government to make accountability a priority.

The NFU is now looking to the government to implement the recommendations set out in the report and use the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services (GBSF) review to deliver on these.

We believe that these should be the following priorities for government:

  • Government must be ambitious in its commitment to sourcing from the UK food and drink sector by promoting and driving local and seasonal food purchasing. Buying standards must champion British food production.
  • Government’s own purchasing decisions must reinforce and uphold British food standards and any future buying standards must protect the sector from lower standard imports.
  • Food procurement must move away from simply purchasing on price by reinforcing the principles of the Balanced Scorecard and embedding the importance of the 'social value' of food. Food procurement can provide wider benefits than the meal being served.
  • Accountability must be driven throughout the supply chain. We must capture and utilise data to drive innovations within supply chains and government spend must be transparent and accountable to its strategic objectives.
  • Any future standards must link with wider government and agricultural policy commitment. For example, how will the GBSF seek to interact with future environmental land management schemes, assurance schemes and industry pledges such as the NFU’s commitment to achieving net zero for farming by 2040.

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