A major review of the way food and catering services are purchased by government, schools and hospitals will examine whether the smaller producers are being given a fair chance to compete for public sector contracts.

Lord Whitty, who launched the review today in Cornwall, called for the government and the farming industry to work together to ensure that they can supply enough fresh and wholesome produce at the right time.

He said it would give “local suppliers the opportunity to meet local needs”.

“Local producers and suppliers - farmers, fishermen and the food processing industry - are well placed to meet sustainability criteria. In the past local, smaller companies have often been by-passed in public procurement and by the big service companies.”

The initiative is part of the government’s Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food.