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The South West to redesign UK public sector food supply

23rd October, 2018
The South West Business Council (SWBC) has been authorised by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) to lead the development of new approaches to food supply to the UK’s public sector.

Starting in the South West, SWBC will design and initiate the roll-out of a number of regional pilot projects. These will focus on significantly increasing the number of small and medium sized businesses that supply the UK’s schools, hospitals, military bases and other public sector organisations.

The West Midlands and East Anglia regions will join the first wave of projects which will include a wide range of technological, commercial and financial factors all designed to make the route from farm to fork more integrated, efficient, environmentally sustainable and fair to small producers. 

The initiative was announced at the quarterly SWBC Conference held at Duchy College, Cornwall, last Friday, 21st September in front of an audience over 100 of the region's food producers and key stakeholder groups, 

Tim Jones, Chair of SWBC and Chair of Defra’s national Public Procurement in the Supply Chain Group said: “For the South West to be leading the development of an integrated supply chain toolkit for such an important sector, and at such a critical time for the UK, is testament to the strength of the region’s business community, innovation ecosystem and science base”.

Tom Powell, from Defra’s Food Procurement Policy Team, said: “Defra is committed to supporting the development and roll-out of innovative approaches that will enable a step-change in public sector food procurement. The Public Procurement in the Supply Chain Group, led by Tim Jones, has been especially active in working together with industry, procurers, researchers and farmers to support opportunities for British grown produce and food within the public procurement market.
 
“The plan to roll-out a number of regional pilot projects, including a programme in the South West, has Defra’s full support. It is aligned with the Plan for Public Procurement’s objectives to improve sustainable procurement in the public sector by incorporating a balanced scorecard approach. This will evaluate the cost of the services against other equally important factors such as provenance, seasonality, SMEs and sustainability.”
 
The Food and Drink sector currently employs over 400,000 people and contributes £103bn to the UK economy. However, the country is only 60% self-sufficient in food, and this figure is likely to drop below 50% between 2025-2030. Defra has committed to stabilising the current position, and to reversing the trend. As part of this the Government has set a target of 33% of procured food to come from Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, up from just 7% of farms that currently produce 55% of output. 

Doug Field, Chair of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and its Food, Drink and Agriculture Board, said: “Our role is to accelerate business growth in Norfolk and Suffolk. We welcome this initiative as it provides opportunities for organisations to expand their customer base, grow their business and improve links with the supply chain.”
Professor Julian Beer, Deputy Vice Chancellor at Birmingham City University said, "As a key player in the development of Birmingham and the West Midlands, across a range of sectors, BCU is delighted to lend its support to this important Defra initiative and to partner with the South West Business Council in exploring collaboration opportunities for the city and the region."