Food producers and farmers in Yorkshire and Humberside are missing out on a lucrative local market worth up to £220m a year because of short-sighted public sector food buying policies, according to the region's development agency, Yorkshire Forward.
The public sector in the region spent more than £200m on food, but only a small amount of that went to local growers and wholesalers, it said.
Research commissioned by Yorkshire Forward from consultants ADAS showed that schools, hospitals and other public sector bodies could reap significant environmental benefits by encouraging tenders from local producers. In its report 'Food and drink in Yorkshire and Humberside: regional supply chains mapping study', it showed that opening up markets to local producers could reduce food miles and distribution costs and cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 70%.
John Elliott, ADAS principle consultant, said: "Up to 30% of the freight on our roads relates to food transportation, so there is an opportunity for us to address one of the main contributors to climate change - carbon dioxide emissions from lorries delivering food."
One possibility to help food producers sell more locally was the use of a virtual enterprise network in which they could collaborate on food procurement tenders that they would be unable to bid for on their own.