Whichever way it is viewed, I believe it brings real benefits, not only to our customers through a greater variety of foods, but it also helps rural economies thrive and gives smaller businesses access to more markets for their products. Realistically, this isn't the answer to every farmer's problems during these difficult times, but it does go some way to support British agriculture.
Working closely with IGD and Business in the Community on a local sourcing guide has given us a greater understanding of local sourcing issues. The guide aims to harness the enthusiasm of retailers, companies and individuals involved in local sourcing, and provides practical business advice.
Three years ago, Sainsbury set up a dedicated regional sourcing team to source locally produced foods from all parts of the country, from local trade fairs, delis, creameries and farmhouses. I am extremely proud that we now source over 3,000 local products from 550 British suppliers, more than any other supermarket. Our trade development managers have the important task of helping bridge the gap between these local suppliers and Sainsbury's buyers. They also work with suppliers to put together our supplier development programmes which help local suppliers understand how to work with large supermarkets to meet customers' needs efficiently and effectively. A number of programmes have been completed so far, most recently in the south west. For example, Barbers, which supply us with wonderful cheeses and took part in that programme, are working on a regional cheese range especially for the south west. They also act as a hub for smaller suppliers in the region and deliver to distribution centres on their behalf. Ten companies took part in this programme and expect to increase sales to us by 25% to £25m by April 2003.
We always consider where we stock locally sourced products. Some suppliers don't want to sell beyond their immediate area, such as Speldhurst sausages, which are great sellers in Tunbridge Wells. Others, such as the husband and wife team at Stapleton farm in Devon, who produce our Taste The Difference yogurts and ice cream have, with our help, developed their business to supply stores across the country.
Locally sourced products are clearly identifiable in our stores through PoS and clear labelling. All fresh produce is now labelled with county of origin, where appropriate, enabling customers to make an informed decision about what they buy.
Local sourcing can deliver, exciting, innovative and award-winning products. Take Quantock Hill game meatball casserole with dumplings ­ a traditional dish from Bagborough which can now be enjoyed by customers nationwide. And it's one of my favourites too.

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