Regional authorities should make greater use of independent groups such as the NFU, English Food and Farming Partnerships and the Soil Association when procuring food for public services, a recent report has concluded.

The report, Best practice in sustainable public-sector food procurement, funded by DEFRA, found that regional authorities should use the expertise of independent groups involved in food production to source more local and seasonal produce.

It also suggests that if regional authorities are to give farmers a market for produce that falls outside the tight requirements of the supermarkets they should relax standards.

“Supermarkets dictate the trend for variety and size.

If public sector procurement is to make an impact then significant contracts need to be set up with nominated suppliers, allowing flexibility on size,” the report says.

“Supermarket trends are for bigger fruit, but this does not suit production in the UK.

Public sector catering therefore represents a genuine opportunity to rediversify fruit and vegetable production, enabling more people to grow more things.”

It adds:

“It also offers a stable marketplace and the opportunity of long-term contracts that can help growers to have the confidence to invest in production, processing and distribution equipment.”