Our farmers are up against it and have been for some time. Many food producers consistently receive less than the cost of production for a range of produce including meat, dairy and grain etc.
We (consumers) can help by choosing to buy British produce and you would hope our Government could do the same. However, under EU law the British Government can not insist or actively encourage the Ministry of Defence, our hospitals, schools and prisons to buy British food.
If the Government could insist that the public sector ‘buys British’. Estimates I have seen, suggest that we would add a further £2.4 billion to our food and drink sector.
EU procurement rules
Certain basic principles that relate to procurement – including food procurement – come from the core Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. One of the core principles of the Treaty is to establish a single market within the EU, and this extends to much public procurement. These principles mean that much public procurement must generally be opened up to potential bidders across the EU. It is against EU law to discriminate on grounds of nationality.
Article 34 of the Treaty – is that “quantitative restrictions on imports and all measures having equivalent effect shall be prohibited between Member States”. One of the key texts on procurement law explains that this means that discrimination in favour of British products is not allowed:
However where a contract is very small, and thus is unlikely be of interest to potential suppliers located in other Member States, the principles do not have to be applied – this means for example that if you are just buying a few apples, you might legitimately just go to a local shop to buy them.
Source: European Commission, Commission interpretative communication on the Community law applicable to contract awards not or not fully subject to the provisions of the Public Procurement Directives (2006)
As explained above, public sector buyers cannot require that food be sourced from the UK, under the procurement principles and rules, as this would discriminate against potential suppliers from other European countries.