UK consumers are being urged to take the 30:30 challenge: source 30% of their food from within a radius of 30 miles (50km). The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is also berating the UK government for its inability to take simple measures to support the economic activity that local food production can generate.
CPRE recommendations include simple measures such as giving a lead in sustainable local food procurement by government agencies and a series of strategic policy changes that would give small to medium food businesses a better chance of surviving. Local authorities, too, should support both local economies and local food producers by actively seeking procurement options within their own boundaries.
Local food in the UK currently supports an estimated 61,000 jobs, according to a study by the CPRE (From field to fork: the value of England’s local food webs). Local food outlets have the potential to serve 16.3 million customers and the country has an impressively diverse world of local food. Forty percent of the 1,800 shoppers interviewed by CPRE were prepared to pay more for local food while more than half buy local food for its quality and a third would happily buy on local provenance alone.
With a motivated customer base like that, how could local food producers fail in the UK? However, high streets up and down the country have shed all but a remnant of their local food outlets, in the face of continued pressure from one-stop shopping at supermarkets. As out-of-town developments have run out of gaps in the market to plug, multiple retailers have opened up smaller, high street and filling station store formats that choke off local competitors in an unfairly matched battle against retail giants.
In less than a decade, between 2004 and 2010, Birmingham saw the number of supermarket outlets rise from 19 to 104; Sheffield from 16 to 104 and Nottingham from 12 to 82. The sheer weight of numbers involved goes a long way to explaining CPRE’s estimate that 400 village shops close every year: more than one a day.
Download From field to fork: the value of England’s local food webs at http://www.cpre.org.uk/resources/farming-and-food/local-foods/item/download/2096