Food: Public Sector

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Asked by Mrs Sharon Hodgson

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the impact of global food price rises on public sector caterers; and whether he is taking steps to (a) help protect public sector food provision from food cost increases and (b) mitigate the impact of potential future food cost increases on those services.

Answered by Victoria Prentis on 17 June 2022

The rising cost of living has presented additional financial challenges to many people and businesses.

We are also aware that 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.

International commodity prices are heavily influenced by factors such as energy costs and exchange rates. Recent pressures have been sustained and we have seen year-on-year food price inflation rise to 6.7% in April, up from 5.9% in March. The Russia/Ukraine conflict adds further cost pressures to UK food supply chains (via international commodity and fuel price rises).

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

The Government recently published its Food Strategy and this sets out a plan to transform our food system to ensure it is fit for the future. As part of this the government is developing an ambitious and transformational approach to public sector food and catering. We want the public sector to lead by example, championing healthier, sustainable food, provided by a diverse range of suppliers. 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.

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