Call for £5m fund to set up regional food hubs in England

A group of food and farming organisations is urging Defra to inject £5m into a pilot fund to kickstart food hubs in England and enhance national food security.

Sustain, the Sustainable Food Trust, the Soil Association, the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) UK and the Landworkers’ Alliance are among the signatories of a letter sent to Defra farming minister Mark Spencer, asking his department to help establish 15 new food hubs.

The Food Hub Fund would help regional food hubs, supporting jobs, creating fairer supply chains, delivering healthy food, and improving environmental outcomes from the sector, while driving innovation in the UK agri-food system and supporting “the Best of British” food, the group says.

See also: Food prices: Why farmers get the smallest share and how to change it

Food hubs are enterprises that buy food from local farmers and then sort, package, sell and distribute to local retailers, hospitality and public service providers.

They cost about £150,000 to set up a warehouse of 250sq m – enough to process food for about 10,000 households.

The group points to the example set in Wales, where five food hubs opened last year as part of a £1.27m partnership funded by the Welsh government.

Sustain’s Unpicking Food Prices report shows that farmers often receive only a fraction of the profit made by the supermarket chain for a particular product.

Food hubs allow shorter food miles and cut out the middleman, offering fairer prices for farmers.

NFFN UK chairman Martin Lines said: “We are seeing smaller farm businesses moving out of commodity markets and moving back to producing food, but we have not got the supply chain to get it back to consumers.

“This fund would be really important to help smaller farmers re-localise food. As we change our rotation and have smaller amounts of produce, we need to make it available to local markets and local people.”

Farmers Weekly has requested a comment from Defra.