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A tale of two counties: Strengthening local food cultures through mapping supply chains in East Sussex and Lancashire

The food supply chain in the UK has become highly centralised and opaque. This has clearly led to several environmental, economic and social issues domestically and overseas. Those concerns have an impact on people and enterprise at the local level. With the UK Government seeking to ‘level up’ the country, now is the time to channel investment into localised food systems and infrastructure.

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To understand what needs to be invested in at that local scale, we set out to map supply chain infrastructure in two counties – East Sussex and Lancashire. Our aims were to find out what infrastructure exists, whether it contributes directly to the local food system, what farm types there are in the counties, and therefore, where the gaps in infrastructure are that need to be invested in.

Here is a summary of what we found:

  • One of the main barriers that we came up against was a lack of data on infrastructure and local food enterprise. We found high-level information through the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Fame database, but this was not detailed enough. We decided to do primary research with farmers and food producers to find out more local insight.
  • Across both counties, we found commonalities in the types of infrastructure that farmers wanted access to or to invest in on-site. Farmers were very interested in the idea of local food hubs that have capacity to carry out processing, storage, packing, distribution, and selling capabilities. Mobile abattoirs, on-farm dairy processing, and vending machine equipment were also a popular ideas.
  • Some of the horticultural growers who like to sell direct to customer suggested they have adequate on-site infrastructure to wash, dry and store produce before sending it off to market. However, many expressed their interest in local food hubs that can also offer this alongside an ability to help farmers and growers access local markets and electrified distribution.
  • Livestock farmers were concerned about the ever-decreasing amount of local infrastructure. Some of the dairy farmers we interviewed are on an Arla milk contract and were relatively comfortable with that, but most said they want to diversify their markets to be less reliant on one buyer and to grow their connection with local citizens.
  • It was clear that collaboration was of importance to farmers and food enterprises. For instance, farmers want to collaborate when it comes to logistics so that distribution space is full, and delivery vans are not half empty. Collaboration was seen as important to access more local markets, compete locally with supermarkets, and be more cost and time efficient.
  • This mapping work requires further investigation to better understand the state of play in both counties. We also call on the UK Government to collect and share relevant data. We also acknowledge the crucial role that partnerships and networks have, and farmers and growers saw food hubs and food partnerships as critical to building local networks and collaboration.

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A tale of two counties: Strengthening local food cultures through mapping supply chains in East Sussex and Lancashire
36pp - 2022 | 1810Kb

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Published 17 Mar 2022

Sustainable Farming Campaign: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

36pp - 2022
1810Kb

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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

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