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Public Sector Food Procurement

Volume 597: debated on Thursday 18 June 2015

11. What discussions she has had with her ministerial colleagues on promoting the purchase of more local and seasonal food in the public sector. (900416)

We launched the Bonfield plan in July last year to help the public sector to buy more local, seasonal food. It means that £400 million of business is available to our farmers and food producers. We are making good progress on that, and only this week I discussed with the Justice Secretary how it could be implemented in his Department.

The Secretary of State mentioned the efforts she is making in central Government, but what progress does she think is being made at a local level to support our first-class farmers and food producers, not least those in the west midlands?

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. We have fantastic produce in the west midlands, from Burton’s Marmite to Worcestershire pears. I am pleased to see that Birmingham City Council is working to make sure all its schools meet the Bonfield standards, and I would like other cities, towns and villages across Britain to do so too.

Will the Secretary of State outline what discussions have been held with the devolved regions about the use and promotion of local food right across the UK public sector?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I recently met the Scottish Agriculture Minister to talk about how to promote British food. I look forward to meeting my Northern Ireland counterparts very soon to discuss that issue, too.

I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Ever since I have been a Member of Parliament, the amount of home-grown food as a proportion of the total has dropped and dropped. If we could increase it, it would be good for our balance of payments and good for jobs. What does my right hon. Friend propose to do to increase it?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend that we need to grow more, buy more and sell more British food. We produce fantastic food in this country. At the moment, for example, we are importing two third of our cheese. There is more we can do to encourage investment in the dairy industry and we have a massive opportunity with exports. By 2018, China will be the world’s biggest food importer, and we have just put in place a food and agriculture counsellor in China to promote that fantastic British produce.