The government is “jeopardising the vibrancy of rural regions” by favouring supermarkets instead of local food networks, according to the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.
A report commissioned by the CPRE provided a “damning indictment “of government food policy and the supermarket model, which had undermined the UK’s local food networks and jeopardised the vibrancy of rural regions.
The charity called for more government action to support local food webs, including a revaluation of competition policy and increased financial support for local food entrepreneurs. It also wanted increased consideration for sustainable food procurement.
The report indicated that pound for pound, spending in independent food stores supports three times as many jobs as supermarket chains but lack of government leadership had left many local food webs “under siege”, said senior food campaigner Graeme Willis.
Researchers estimated in England alone, local food outlets serve 16.3 million customers a week and local food sales through independent outlets are worth £2.7bn a year to the economy.
As well as economic value, local food networks also provided income in rural areas and supported diversity, distinctiveness and innovation in food and farming, said the CPRE.
“Our research shows that the presence of supermarkets is not an insurmountable obstacle to vibrant local food networks – but their number, scale and location is critical,” said Mr Willis.
“Moderately sized supermarkets, well- located and well-connected with town centres, can draw shoppers and support a centre’s overall vibrancy and attractiveness. However, if local food networks are to thrive, they need sustained support from individuals, the community, business and policy-makers locally and nationally.”