The government will soon be implementing new rules and bringing to a halt departmental spending on low grade foreign food produce. The local farmer has suffered as a result of the past measures and now more of our food products will be supplied to civil servants, military troops and prisoners.
Local produce has been bypassed by government departments for many years as they preferred to import cheaper foreign produce. Animal interests are often lower in many foreign countries.
Farmers are concerned as the various services will demand that any food produce must be of the highest standard. The cost of this must not exceed that of the overseas variety. According to the sources only half of all food served up to service personnel is produced by home farms.
The farming community is annoyed with Government having missed many opportunities. Other public sectors such as schools, councils and hospitals have been excluded from the new rulings. Although the departments will not be required to publish figures regarding food sources they will provide annual figures on food proportions set to UK standards. Environment Ministers are emphatic in their request for these reports
Different political parties have for many years been asking Government to show good faith and buy locally but Ministers have had their hands tied as they cannot discriminate by forcing a buy local only rule. Ministers hope to give our farmers an advantage by insisting that produce must meet UK production standards.
As public spending is now under severe strain, Government has decided that the new rules will only apply should there be no cost increase but farmers are worried they will still be disadvantaged by the lower grade overseas produce.
With the introduction of the new rules, all fish products bought by Government will be required to originate from sustainable sources. Originally this figure had been set at 60%. Purchasing regulations for the new catering contracts, which come into effect in September, will require 50% of all tea and coffee to be Fair Trade.
There has been a great deal of criticism leveled at different Ministers for their delay in implementing the new rules. The Tories had promised, before the election, quick action in buying British standard produce and the Coalition Agreement had promised a speedy introduction of the new rules. When the Conservatives were in opposition they had supported an honest food campaign which certified correct country of origin labeling.