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Supermarkets urged to champion UK farmers with ‘Buy British’ online option

More than 100 MPs have urged supermarkets to champion UK farmers by creating a “Buy British” section on their websites.

Lee Anderson, the deputy Tory chairman, and Graham Stuart, the climate minister, are among Conservatives to sign an open letter calling on retailers to direct shoppers to homegrown food in an effort to boost the economy and cut the UK’s carbon footprint.


The “Buy British” tab would collate produce from across the UK so customers have “greater power in their choices”, enabling them to support the nation’s farmers “quickly and easily”.


The MPs say the change could be achieved “by the click of a mouse”, with many shops already labelling British products. It is understood that at least one major supermarket is looking into the idea internally.


A government source said ministers backed “industry-led action” to “help signpost customers to buy British where they can”.


The campaign, led by the Tory MP Luke Evans, has more than 110 signatories including Theresa Villiers, a former environment secretary, and four members of the Commons environment committee. Its open letter urges retailers to highlight the “very best” of what the UK has to offer in “a ‘Buy British’ section on online stores”.


“British farmers work hard all year round to ensure our nation’s food security, are crucial in supporting strong local economies and have been instrumental in preserving and protecting our environment,” it says. “Eating food produced in the UK also drastically cuts down on the carbon produced when importing goods from elsewhere.”


It adds that this “small change” would “give customers greater autonomy over their food choices and make eating seasonally even easier for those who wish to do so”.


Most major supermarkets do not yet have a dedicated tab on their online stores to direct customers to their entire British range. Sainsbury’s has a tab for “British produce” on its fruit and vegetables menu, while Waitrose has sections for “beautifully British fruit and veg” and “British regional cheese”. Ocado has a “Best of British” page.


Ms Villiers said: “We produce some of the best food in the world in the UK. Buying British food helps our farmers, it cuts down on carbon emissions from food miles and it boosts our rural economy.”


Minette Batters, the president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said it was “great” to see MPs get behind the “Buy British” initiative because “we have been asking retailers to commit to signposting British produce for a number of years”.


She said political and public support for the UK industry was “more important and more valued than ever”. Earlier this year, an NFU survey revealed farmer confidence was at its lowest since the start of the pandemic, partly because of the spiralling costs of production.


Dr Evans said: “Farmers in my community say the best way to support them is simple: buy British produce. So I wanted to take this to the nation, as we know the public want to play their part.”


A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “Our British-sourced items are referenced in several different ways, including category filters and flags on products. We are constantly adapting our website to reflect the way our customers shop online and help them find the products they are looking for.”


An Ocado spokesman said: “As an online-only retailer, we can be really agile and specific with the information we share, so when fresh produce is in season, we’ll also add ‘British’ to the product’s title on site.”


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