The NHS is offering two-year contracts to producers to supply it with locally produced food for hospitals.

The contracts, worth 48m nationally, are for supplies of meat, poultry, bread, morning goods (breakfast items), milk and cream, but farmers have to be quick – they must register their interest by 11 September.

“This is an excellent opportunity for food and drink suppliers to diversify into a new and lucrative market,” said South West Food & Drink’s Andy Berry, the south-west’s first public procurement manager.

“This also helps reduce food miles and injects cash into the local economy. The public sector is a good payer and the contract will be secure for at least two years.”

The contract will run from February 2007 until January 2009, with an option to extend it for two more years.

“We are looking for regional suppliers, and actively encourage small to medium-sized businesses,” said the NHS’s Sarah Bailey.

The deadline for registration is noon on 11 September. To register, visit www.pasa.nhs.uk and complete the online registration form.Successful applicants will be invited to tender in October.

South-west producers can e-mail Andy Berry at andy.berry@southwestfoodanddrink.com for more information.