A major new project to map the South West’s food supply chains will identify opportunities to improve the system for people, place and planet.
Greater knowledge of food supply chains in the region will support improved opportunities for farmers and food producers, while also delivering social, environmental, and economic improvements.
Researchers will work to discover the food products public institutions such as hospitals and schools buy, and in what form they prefer to purchase food – for example already prepared – and how frequently. Farmers and food producers will also be interviewed to help experts gain a clear understanding of what is produced within the region throughout the year.
The project is a partnership between, and funded by, Devon and Somerset County Councils, The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership and the National Farmers’ Union, with the research led by Professor Matt Lobley at the University of Exeter’s Centre for Rural Policy Research. Surveys and interviews will take place across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.
Professor Lobley said: “We hope the partnership’s work will lead to a reduction in food miles, better deals for farmers and greater amounts of local food bought and consumed. Having a deeper understanding about food supply chains in the South West will lead to an increase in people eating better quality, fresher food, and an improvement in public health.”
Understanding local food supply chains better will also highlight what investments are needed in the food system in the South West – for example new processing plants which could reduce the amount of produce shipped out of the region for processing, only to return back to the South West in its processed form. It will build upon existing efforts to create a platform for farmers to access the procurement systems used by the public sector more easily.
The research team want to hear from those involved in food supply and production – including farmers, those involved in food storage and processing, large wholesalers and public sector organisations who purchase food. Experts will carry out interviews about their work and experiences to map the food supply chain in the South West from farm to fork.
Melanie Squires, NFU South West Regional Director, said: This project is designed to highlight opportunities for food producers and processors to grow existing and access new markets and for food procurers to outline what they think is needed to allow them to buy more food grown and processed within the South West. We have anecdotal evidence from farmers and food processors who tell us that they would love to expand their market by supplying the public sector, but they list a set of barriers to doing so. This research will help to uncover those barriers, real or perceived, and make genuine recommendations for future investment or policy change that could open up the public sector for smaller food businesses too. This project, and the support it has received from funding partners, is great news for the food and farming industry.”
Anne-Marie Sowden, Commercial Operations Manager at CATERed Limited and FullyCATERed Limited, said: “We believe it’s vital we work with companies who share our ethos to support the local growers, farmers, and businesses and through our procurement contracts we’ve introduced smaller operators to our supply chain in the hope that this would potentially open a route to market.
“CATERed is pleased to take part in this research project. Aligning local production with large food procurers in the region will have many benefits. It will create a more efficient and resilient supply chain, reduce food miles, reduce carbon emissions and improve business productivity.”
To take part in the research email A.Goodwin@exeter.ac.uk.