Harry Tuffins is not the only independent retailer to take the initiative on food miles, but shining examples of local sourcing are still often the exception rather than the rule.

Among symbol groups, MBL has led the way with a growing range of local sourcing practices developed over several years.

Nisa-Today's chief executive Neil Turton admits that local sourcing is not an area where the group has traditionally been strong, but he has highlighted it as a key area for improvement at Nisa-Today's over the next 12 months. In this field, the group will have to move away from its familiar territory of centralised buying and rather work as a mediator between its retail members and local suppliers, he says.

For the independent, the desire to source more local produce is often outweighed by a number of factors such as sufficient knowledge of suppliers, red tape and health and safety issues.

A combination of these factors will often be enough to put off retailers, many of whom already work extremely long hours and are determined to be as competitive as possible on price.

However, a new food safety scheme has been set up by the British Retail Consortium, NFU, the FDF and the British Hospitality Association in a bid to make it easier for local retailers to stock more locally sourced food.

The Safe and Local Supplier Approval scheme (SALSA) provides a central registration log. The producers who sign up are then audited to ensure robust food safety procedures. According to the BRC, small retailers will benefit from the scheme by being able to source more food directly from small suppliers, while the costs associated with food safety checks will be reduced.

So small retailers will be able to save money but also reduce the amount of time they will have to spend dealing with local ­suppliers individually.n