NI council becomes first to pass motion for local food procurement

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) is urging more Northern Ireland councils to support their local food producers and businesses after ABC Council became the first to pass a motion calling for tenders to consider food miles.

The motion, which was put forward by Ulster Unionist councillor and Deputy Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough (ABC) Council Kyle Savage, proposes the council supports producers and businesses within its procurement processes.

Motion

It called for the council to review the wording of its contracts and be more proactive in encouraging local companies to apply for contracts, as well as providing support for procurement, training, and ‘meet the buyer’ events, and was passed unanimously.

The motion also called for the council to support, where possible local businesses and producers in its tenders.

“As a farmer, I am passionate about our social and environmental responsibilities,” he said.

We, as a council, have a responsibility to our producers and our local businesses in our council area. I believe that we have a duty of care to our producers in ensuring they get a fair share of the profits throughout the food chain.

“We also need full traceability of all foods used within council property and events and also take into account the environmental impact caused by food miles.

“We also need to adopt the ‘Shop Local’ initiative within council and look to the procurement regulations and how we can adapt them to help support our local food producers and businesses. Cost is always an issue. But we, as a council, have to take our environmental responsibilities into account.

For example, we are currently buying flowers from outside of Northern Ireland when we have large nurseries within our council area. Bear in mind that transport and energy are two major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.”

Savage, who is from an agricultural background, said he understands how important supporting local is – not only for the farming community but for the entire NI economy.

He said: “As a farmer, I can see first-hand the pressure that is facing our industry, with the Agriculture Bill and the potential prospect of food imports of chlorinated chicken and hormone fed beef which are illegal to produce in Northern Ireland.

Our agriculture industry supports up to 100,000 jobs in Northern Ireland and it is now time to actively support our local farmers, producers and businesses.

“That’s why the Ulster Unionist Group brought this motion to the council and I am happy to say that it got cross-party support. Now we need to put plans into action. Jobs rely on it.”

Former UFU president Ivor Ferguson said: “The UFU would like to commend councillor and Deputy Lord Mayor Kyle Savage, for successfully getting ABC Council to commit to supporting local food production.

“This is a significant development during the current Covid-19 pandemic as many food producers across Northern Ireland are struggling to sustain their businesses during these difficult times, and local councils have the ability to influence residents in their areas to do the same.

“ABC Council is setting a positive example and leading the way in championing NI food producers by supporting local. The next step is for all other councils to follow suit and support farmers, producers and homegrown businesses in their area.

“By passing this motion, ABC Council has recognised the efforts of our farmers and producers who ensure shop shelves remain stocked with delicious, trustworthy produce.

We all want to be able to purchase high-quality food when needed no matter what is going on in the world, and safeguarding food security here in NI is crucial to achieving that, which is why we must support local food production and choose locally produced food.

“If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that when times are hard, we rely on our neighbours more than ever and that includes our local food producers.”

AgriLand contacted Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough (ABC) to ask how the passed motion will be put into practice. However, the council has yet to respond.

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