THE MILK price crisis has prompted the government to announce a new review of public procurement policies.
Unlike previous initiatives the net will be cast much wider, spanning food purchasing in schools and hospitals, as well as central government.
The UK environment secretary Elizabeth Truss said she is “urgently pursing” a series of initiatives, including:
- A new commitment to publish details of central government catering contracts, including their renewal dates, to bring transparency to the market and allow dairy farmers the opportunity to prepare and compete for contracts
- A review of buying habits across the wider public sector, including hospitals, schools and prisons
- Improving the promotion of British dairy within the public sector by working with major catering providers
- More consistent branding and labelling of British products.
In June 2014, Truss announced a new food and drink buying standard for central government departments. The so-called Plan for Public Procurement and accompanying scorecard are due to replace the government buying standards – which have produced mixed results – by 2017. It is unclear whether the scorecard will now be revised.
The public sector spends £1.2 billion a year on food and drink. Half (£600m) is currently imported. The government believes its plan could see an extra £400m of products sourced nationally.
The announcement came as 5,000 farmers descended on Brussels to protest against plummeting milk and meat prices. The European Commission yesterday announced a €500m (£365m) package of support, the details of which are yet to be confirmed.
The NFU welcomed the move but called for “fundamental culture change across the entire supply chain”. It has argued that farmers are selling milk at a loss, with 50% threatening to quit if prices don’t rise.