§ Mr. Bradshaw
The Government recognises the benefits of local food and is keen to encourage a flourishing local food sector. Over the last 12 months, we have made provision under the England Rural Development Programme for grants for activities such as the establishment of farmers' markets and other direct sales outlets, the development of local branding initiatives and the formation of collaborative groups to market produce. Defra has also helped to finance workshops organised by the IGD designed to bring together supermarkets and small local producers to explore how barriers to local sourcing can be overcome. One practical area where the Government can have a direct effect on the local food sector is public procurement. Defra has published guidance on its website (http://www.defra.gov.uk/farrri/ 291W sustain/procurement/index.htm) that, among other things, should help to increase the opportunities for local and UK producers to compete for public sector contracts. We have asked Government Departments to produce their own action plans on public procurement. We are also encouraging local authorities to do the same.
We have recently drawn up a local food policy paper examining the rationale for public support and setting out a framework within which support will be given. The paper is published on the following website address: http://www.defra.gov.uk/foodrin/specialfoods/localfood/index.htm. The framework focuses on added value at national level, the public procurement initiative and spreading best local food practice nationwide. We will also continue to deploy our various funding schemes to encourage a flourishing local food sector. This activity will complement measures at a regional level which the Regional Development Agencies will be implementing as part of their wider food and drink strategies.
§ Mr. Bradshaw
Local trade fairs and farmers' markets are an excellent way to raise awareness about local and regional food. In the last 12 months, we have made provision under the England Rural Development Programme for grants for projects promoting farmers' markets and other direct sales outlets. For example, within this period we have awarded 100,256 to the National Association of Farmers' Markets to raise the profile of farmers' markets across England and increase public awareness of them. In addition, in November last year Lord Whitty wrote to all Local Authorities outlining the benefits farmers' markets bring and the role they play in bringing urban and rural communities together. Finally, Defra provides funding to Food from Britain, which has responsibility for promoting the production and consumption of quality regional food and drink. One of the measures for doing this is by providing business support, through the network of Regional Food Groups, to those producers wishing to exhibit at trade fairs both at a local and national level.