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Following the announcement that “at least half of all food bought by the public sector in France must either be organic or locally-produced, or come with a quality label by 2022,” the Soil Association’s policy and campaigns manager is calling on Michael Gove to “sit up and take note.”

The new rules, announced by French agricultural minister Stéphane Travert last week (31 January), have been implemented in an attempt to “boost” the French farming sector and “improve diets.”

Policy and campaigns manager at the Soil Association’s ‘Food for Life,’ Rob Percival commented: “Michael Gove should sit up and take note of this new French policy, which highlights the power of public procurement to support better farming practices, while also improving diets.

“The UK public sector spends £2.4 billion each year procuring food and catering services, providing an enormous opportunity to spend public money for public good.

“Food for Life has shown what is possible, growing the market for assurance schemes including Red Tractor, LEAF, RSPCA-assured, and organic. More ambitious action from Government could further stimulate demand for British, local, and higher quality produce.

“Michael Gove already has the tools he needs at his fingertips. He must move now to implement mandate Defra’s Balanced Scorecard approach across the whole public sector, including education and health, while requiring public procurement decisions to place a weighting of at least 60% on quality relative to cost.

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“He should also investigate the potential of innovative ‘dynamic’ procurement approaches to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) producers to gain access to markets, in line with the commitments made in the Industrial Strategy.

“As France is showing, public procurement can be a powerful tool for supporting local and organic farmers, and can make an important contribution towards improved public health. Gove must seize the opportunity presented by Brexit to implement a procurement policy at least as ambitious as his French counterpart.”