Environmental targets in public sector contracts are coming under increasing pressure as clients demand significant cost savings at the expense of sustainability and local sourcing.
With intense pressure on all public sector spend, suppliers scrabbling to slash costs are looking for the cheapest produce possible, which makes sustainable local sourcing less likely.
One wholesaler said that having geared up for local sourcing in line with moves to support British suppliers through public procurement, some buyers are now looking at price as the principle consideration. "This might mean Dutch rather than British tomatoes," she added.
Eden Foodservice director Simon James said that over the past 12 months the mood had changed dramatically and suggested that the awarding matrices for local government tenders have moved from as much as 70% being placed on quality and sustainability and 30% on price to, in some cases, completely the reverse.
"It reflects the austere circumstances in which we currently live. Local authorities have to find significant savings going forward," he added. "Some will look for economies of scale in different ways, such as outsourcing provision to a commercial contractor."
Others question the approach, adopted in the main by NHS trusts, of using buying consortiums to drive down price without necessarily putting enough emphasis on sustainability.
Martin Cantor, catering project manager at the Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust, said that procurement departments are tasked with saving money and that measures put in place aim to ensure quality is not affected. "But there's only so much blood you can squeeze from a stone. Something is going to give somewhere down the line," he added.
"Economies of scale make buying locally very difficult. It takes time to set up with individual local farmers and you need to be certain they will be able to deliver."
However, Sodexo buying director Steve Jobson said that sustainability was still a priority for the public sector. He added: "If anything, recent tenders suggest that it has become more prevalent in their requirements."
Pubs and restaurants caught selling ‘local' food from far away >>](http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2010/09/27/335294/Pubs-and-restaurants-caught-selling-39local39-food-from-far.htm)
<span class=""noindex"">By Janie Stamford
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