Morrisons starting search for best local UK food producers
A new report calls for the UK to be more self-sufficient in food production and new consumer research shows a growing appetite from British shoppers for more local food.
"The Nation’s Local Foodmakers" will see Morrisons aim to recruit more than 200 new suppliers from across England, Scotland and Wales in the first year.
Morrisons is inviting foodmakers to pitch for their place in its supermarkets via a series of 12 regional events starting in Yorkshire on March 14.
The move comes as a new report by leading experts on global food issues led by Professor Tim Benton, from the University of Leeds, says that only half (52%) of food eaten in the UK comes from British farmers.
In the British Food report, Professor Benton says that in light of uncertainties globally it makes increasing sense to build up a stronger local food sector here in the UK and calls on British retailers, producers and customers to recognise the wider benefits of supporting UK food making and production.
The main conclusions of the independent report, which was commissioned by Morrisons, are:
There are risks – climate change and trade wars - in "too much" reliance on food produced elsewhere and these could increase over time.
The rapid increase of global goods trading over the past 3 decades means we now export £18bn of food whilst importing £39bn.
Whilst global trade has a place and the UK can never be entirely self sufficient buying more food locally will increase our resilience to these risks.
British customers have an appetite to buy more local food because they believe it to be more trustworthy, and that it supports their local communities.
This is supported by new research from Morrisons which shows that British consumers are open to this shift with more than two thirds (67%) of UK shoppers stating in an omnibus survey of 2,000 adults a preference to buy British with the remainder expressing no preference.
Supporting local foodmakers will have wider benefits for the nation and the British countryside. It will support the local economy, maintain a thriving agricultural sector, create greater diversity of farm types producing more diverse foods, benefiting the countryside.
It will also potentially produce food more efficiently and transparently, increasing our trust in it.
The UK has seen a decline in the indigenous produce grown here with orchards, for example, now accounting for 25,100 hectares compared to 113,000 hectares 50 years go.
The report also points to periods where production of cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peas, parsnips, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, rhubarb and pears grown in the UK have decreased with French and runner beans down by as much as 49%.
The programme will see Morrisons buyers tour Great Britain in search of the best local producers to supply its 491 stores nationwide. The company has a priority of sourcing more local food and is keen to reduce the distance that food travels.
Morrisons will also be working with members of the Women’s Institutes in their communities around the UK, using their local knowledge and expertise to source and select the best suppliers in their area. ■