as Asda boosts its commitment Food chain leaders rejected accusations from MPs that local sourcing ­ the current buzzword in the industry ­ was simply political correctness from the multiples. Speaking at Food and Drink Expo 2002 on Monday, IGD chief executive Joanne Denney said: "Local sourcing is not the answer to all of the problems of UK farming plc, but it's an important strand in the overall strategy. If you are a smaller producer or grower, if you have something special or unique with local value or connotations, it is possible to do business with the bigger players." NFU president Ben Gill said local sourcing had "enormous potential" as a way of differentiating the market and cutting food miles. "Saying this is political correctness is in itself politically correct," he added. Speaking at the show the previous day, Asda deputy COO Richard Baker said Asda had recently strengthened its commitment to local sourcing with a new dedicated team to drive it forward. Local suppliers were often more flexible and innovative than multinationals, who were "constrained by big brand thinking", added Baker. The flexibility of Asda's systems meant it was able to cope with the logistical challenges brought about by local sourcing with every store "managed as a unique retail outlet," added Baker. Asda's four-strong team will focus on the West Country, Scotland, Wales, Yorkshire and the north east, and Lancashire across a series of categories such as sausages, ice cream, bakery, yogurts and cheese. Links with new suppliers will be developed through Meet the Buyer events, while the team will also identify opportunities to promote local food through events such as St David's Day. Small producers exhibiting at the exhibition welcomed the multiples' regional sourcing initiatives. However, several said retail buyers' tendency to use preferred suppliers - usually large ones ­ made it almost impossible to get a foot in the door in some categories. {{NEWS }}