Government must update its public sector food procurement standards to support British farmers and reach emissions goals, Neil Parish MP, chairman of the Efra Select Committee has said.
His comments follow the publication of the committee’s latest report, which called on Ministers to drag the Government Buying Standards for Food (GBSF) into the new decade, addressing outdated guidance on animal welfare and closing loopholes in existing rules. As well as demanding action to push Government departments, schools and NHS hospitals to comply, the committee outlined its disappointment that GBSF has not been used a vehicle to support British producers. It urged the Government to place greater focus on factors such as seasonality which would support British farmers within procurement rules. The report also called for the immediate removal of an exemption to the GBSF which permits deviation from UK food production and animal welfare standards in the case of a ’significant increase in costs’.
Mr Parish suggested there was a real opportunity for Government to support high standards, small business and British farmers through its food procurement system. He said: “Our prisons, schools and hospitals spend billions each year on food, yet Government buying standards are not up to date and remain poorly enforced. “Our report found that ‘buying British’ does not have to be more expensive, and at the same time we can support local, seasonally produced food, which is often healthier for the consumer, has lower food miles and chimes with the Government’s own ‘net zero’ and future farming ambitions. “Government buying standards should therefore be urgently updated and made mandatory across the public sector. “If we fail to act, Ministers are in danger of paying mere lip service to vital policies and falling short of their manifesto promises ‘to encourage the public sector to Buy British, support our farmers and reduce environmental costs’ at the same time.”