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Food Supply

Volume 493: debated on Thursday 4 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what financial and other support his Department has made available to encourage the development of local food hubs; how many such food hubs are in existence; and at which locations. (276892)

I recognise the benefits of well run local food hubs in helping to make it easier for local food producers to access markets, including public sector customers. Under the Regional Food Strategy both DEFRA and the regional development agencies have provided support for a number of initiatives, including food hubs, aimed at facilitating access to market for local food producers.

Funding to encourage the development of local food hubs in England has come from a number of sources:

The additional £5 million over five years (2003-04 to 2007-08) which DEFRA made available to Food from Britain (FFB) to support the quality regional food sector;

The regional development agencies' (RDA) single pot funding;

The Rural Development Programme; and

The private sector.

Examples of food hub-related activities which have received public funding include:

Under the previous England Rural Development Programme a 50 per cent. Rural Enterprise Scheme grant of £228,500 which helped fund the conversion of existing traditional buildings into Plumgarths Farm Shop and Lakelands Food Park in Cumbria;

The Ludlow Food Centre which has received funding (£159,000) from the West Midlands RDA; and

A study being funded by the South East of England, East of England and London RDAs examining the feasibility of using food hubs to serve London with local and regional produce.

In addition to the above, other examples of food hub facilities can be found in Bedfordshire (Woburn Country Foods), Essex (Ashlyns Organics); Shropshire (Weston Park); Nottinghamshire (Southglade Food Park) and Cumbria (Redhills near Penrith). In the south-west, the development of food distribution hubs is being driven by local demand through the supermarkets and food manufacturers without the need for public sector intervention.

Finally, DEFRA has also helped fund, via FFB, the research by Westley Consulting Ltd. and John Geldard (Plumgarths Farm) which led to the ‘Supplying Local Food to Mainstream Customers’ report published in August 2008. A copy of this report, which recognised the role that well run food hubs could play but was cautious about recommending public investment in establishing more hubs, can be found at the Westley Consulting website.