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Scottish councils under pressure over food imports

A row has broken out in Scotland after councils were shown to be spending millions of pounds procuring food from overseas that could have been sourced locally.

A BBC investigation found that local authorities, who purchase most of their food through national procurement body Scotland Excel, spent over a million pounds on Thai chicken alone over a 12 month period and over £100,000 on carrots and processed potato products from within the EU.

The investigation also found items including turkey, beef and corned beef were imported from Brazil during the past 12 months.

The issue of local food is politically sensitive in Scotland where the food sector is at the heart of the government’s growth strategy and ministers have made repeated calls for public sector bodies to buy local produce.

Published in 2009, Scotland’s National Food and Drink Policy – titled Recipe for Success – called for “the adoption of sustainable food procurement as a corporate objective for all public sector organisations”.

Supermarkets, catering companies, fast food outlets and coffee chains have also come under pressure to source more local food, including more Scottish milk.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing told the BBC that while he believed Scotland was doing quite well on local food procurement, it could do better. He added that 48% of the £150m spent on procuring food in the public sector is on Scottish food, an increase of 41% in the publication of Recipe for Success.