The NFU is backing British for public sector procurement

22 June 2021

Farm business

It is in the public's and producers’ interests that our public sector uses our world-leading food and farming industry. That's why we have been working with government and industry to maximise these opportunities for NFU members.

What does the public procurement of food mean?

Public procurement is the purchase of goods and services on behalf of a public authority, such as a government agency. The public procurement of food encompasses a spend of over £2.4 billion in organisations such as schools, prisons, the military and hospitals.

What public procurement policy is government reviewing?

Government is looking at two areas of public sector food procurement in 2021:

  • The cabinet office has consulted on the UK’s procurement structures and a Procurement Bill has been proposed.
  • Defra is consulting on the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering. These are mandatory standards.

These are great opportunities to help bring about a renewed approach to public procurement, and from them we want more inward investment in British food, its standards, and values.

What is the NFU saying to government?

  • By investing in the nation’s food production system, the government can capitalise on the benefits that our agri-food economy delivers. This includes food safety and production standards, environmental protection and animal welfare.
  • Public sector food procurement can ensure everyone has access to British food, regardless of where they live or their income.

What are the NFU's political asks?

The NFU’s procurement and food service adviser Bethan Williams had developed political asks that will help create more opportunities for British food within public sector procurement:

  • For government to review how they can “lead by example” and source their food and drink from British farmers and growers.
  • For the 2021 review of the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering (GBSF) to champion sourcing British produce by driving transparent, sustainable, and cost-effective food procurement.
  • For the balanced scorecard, established by Defra in 2014, to be legally embedded into contracting procedure.
  • For government to address the current supply chain barriers in public sector procurement, such as contracting visibility and terms and conditions, that hinder accessibility for SME businesses and often domestic food producers to supply the market.
  • For government to address data collection, auditing, and monitoring of public sector procurement across central, regional and local procurement bodies.
  • For government to ensure that public sector does not become a home for food which is not produced to UK standards.

    The NFU’s policy priorities and the above political asks centre around ensuring the government is ambitious in its commitment to sourcing from the UK food and drink sector, including promoting and driving local and seasonal food purchasing. This includes reinforcing and upholding British food standards, driving food procurement away from purchasing on price alone.

    NFU foodservice and procurement adviser Bethan Williams explains:

    “We want a public sector procurement model that values domestic sourcing, is mandated by central government and delivered regionally with support from local producers, enabling more British food on our plates. I am looking forward to engaging with government and industry on the NFU’s ambitions to develop a transparent, competitive and functioning public sector marketplace that places British production at the centre of government sourcing”.

    Policy priorities will be achieved through various NFU work streams within public procurement. These include:

    • Responding to the Government Buying Standards consultation.
    • Building relationships within specific sectors, such as the NHS, as well as relations with public sector catering and contract caterers.
    • Developing campaigns around our political asks and engaging with government on SME sourcing.

    Ask us a question about this page

    Once you have submitted your query our NFU CallFirst team will contact you and, if appropriate, your question will be passed on to one of our policy teams.

    By completing the form with your details on this page, you are agreeing to have this information sent to the NFU for the purposes of contacting you regarding your enquiry. Please take time to read the NFU’s Privacy Policy if you require further information.