Farmers should be trained to promote local food to help boost the ailing independent retail food sector in Wales, a regional planning academic claimed at the Royal Welsh Show.

Terry Marsden, head of Cardiff University’s centre for regional planning, and co-author of the Appetite for Life report commissioned for the Welsh Assembly, said many private food outlets could be just one generation away from closure.

Prof Marsden told a Farmers Union of Wales seminar that money should be made available through the new Rural Development Plan to provide training for farmers and fresh-food processors to help revitalise local food.

Cash was also needed to re-train school dinner ladies and educate children in links between farming, good-quality food and health.

The infrastructure that provided people with local foods in the past had become disconnected and the links must be renewed, said Prof Marsden.

The state must accept its key role in revitalising public interest in fresh foods, and providing choice when it came to deciding what appeared on consumers’ plates.

Higher priority

School meals and other public catering must be given a much higher priority, with a move away from so-called “cashless” solutions to worries over quality.

Some procurement bodies were already setting a good example to others, but the national picture was patchy, he said.

The meeting also heard that providing facilities for freezing and storing Welsh lamb could provide better continuity of supply, and make it more attractive to caterers who were worried about the shelf life and safety of the fresh product.

But lamb had to be seen as competitively priced for it to be used more widely.

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