Most food manufacturers are unable to purchase raw materials locally, according to a new report.
English Farming and Food Partnerships quizzed 3,500 farmers and manufacturers and found that although 80% of processors expressed a wish to buy raw materials locally, only one third could do so.
Some processors blamed a lack of action on the part of farmers and growers.
Two-thirds believed collaboration between farmers would improve their chances of becoming suppliers, with 46% claiming they would listen to direct contact from farmers.
One ready meals manufacturer quoted in the report said he got a better service from farmers overseas. "We have one supplier in the Netherlands who ensures we get a great level of service," he said.
"I can ring them up for a delivery today and receive it to exact specs tomorrow. British farmers do not have this attitude."
Callton Young, director of sustainability and competitiveness at the FDF, warned that suppliers would not establish better links with UK farmers unless it made sense to do so. "It's crucial that partnerships are set up not for altruistic reasons, but because they make good business sense in the modern economy," he said.
But NFU president Peter Kendall said: "Any partnership must be based on commitment and understanding on both sides.
"The million dollar question is whether food processors, retailers and foodservice operators are ready to step forward and invest with us."