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Food: Public Sector

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 11588, tabled on 1 June 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the Answer of 31 May 2022 to Question 5626 on Food: Supply Chains, what evidence he has received to show that major suppliers can fulfil existent and future public procurement contracts to the public food sectors.

Answered on

20 June 2022

There are a number of challenges that caterers and suppliers are currently encountering in the wider commercial environment including general inflation, energy price increases, material shortages and supply chain disruption.

The procurement and fulfilment of food for the public sector is the responsibility of lead departments for that sector. The actual procurement of food is fully devolved to schools and academy trusts and NHS Trusts. The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defence retain responsibility for procurement to facilities management providers.

We will continue to work with these departments regarding any ongoing supply chain issues to gain assurance that any disruption can be accommodated through routine mitigations and further contingency plans.

The Government Commercial Function has provided general guidance on handling inflationary pressures to Contracting Authorities.

Defra has well established ways of working with the industry and across Government to gather evidence and monitor risks that may arise. This includes extensive, regular and ongoing engagement in preparedness for, and response to, issues with the potential to cause disruption to food supply chains. Lead Government departments will be responsible for ensuring that they have sufficient evidence to show that major suppliers can fulfil their public sector food contracts.

The Government published its Food Strategy last week and this sets out a plan to transform our food system to ensure it is fit for the future. To underpin this approach we are launching a consultation on public sector food and catering policy, including updating the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services. Within the consultation, we are proposing that the public sector reports on progress towards meeting an aspiration that 50% of its food expenditure is on food produced locally or to higher environmental production standards.