Morrisons supermarket has announced it is aiming to recruit more than 200 British suppliers after it called on the UK to be more self-sufficient.A report by the University of Leeds reveals that only half of food eaten in this country comes from UK farmers.But the news comes after the retailer was accused of acting contrary to its commitment to source British food, with the National Farmers' Union claiming their imported products confused shoppers.The rapid increase of global trading over the past three decades means the UK exports £18bn of food whilst importing £39bn.Food consumed in the UK is produced in 168 different countries.The retailer has put out a call for British suppliers to pitch their products for a chance to earn a spot on the supermarket's shelves.Food producers will be selected by region and the company hopes to have fresh food available in its 491 stores that was 'grown, made, picked or packaged' within a 60-mile radius of any local supermarket.
Stronger local food sectorProfessor Tim Benton, lead author of the report and an expert on global food security, said: "It makes absolute sense to build up a stronger local food sector here in the UK and increase our resilience, meaning we could maintain access to a range of quality, locally produced goods."Global trade has a strong role to play in our economy and for our nation, especially because the UK can never be entirely self-sufficient, but producing and buying more food locally will increase our protection against risks."These risks, whether that be climate change or trade wars, could increase over time, but more importantly, we also need to recognise the benefits of supporting UK food making and production."The report also states that whilst the UK has potential to grow a greater range of products and supply a variety of markets, it recognises the country does not have any spare land for food production.Underinvestment in the UK productivity sector is highlighted and the authors say a national conversation about the wider attributes of consumption of UK-produced food is needed. Small suppliers to bigger suppliersThey also acknowledge that while some produce would be impossible to produce in the UK due to environmental factors, in some areas, local capacity does not exist to produce more diverse foodstuffs.The chairman of Morrisons, Andy Higginson, said: "Morrisons is already British farming’s biggest single customer, and the publication of the report today from Prof Benton makes us more determined to produce more of our food and source more from local British suppliers. "We want small UK food suppliers to become bigger ones and we also want to give our customers the option of more food that meets their local food tastes."Morrisons was found in research published yesterday by Which? on supermarket customer satisfaction to have climbed from eighth place last year to number five.