"I would caution against any temptation towards token action. Fine words are not enough." Speaking yesterday [Monday] to an audience of food manufacturers, retailers and the press, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales urged food retailers and processors to commit themselves to a long-term policy in favour of local sourcing.

Well known as an advocate of sustainable farming and best practices in food production, Prince Charles yesterday helped launch a guide to local sourcing which aims to help small rural producers of food and drink establish mutually beneficial relationships with multiple retailers. While some retailers are seizing the initiative and responding to consumer demand for locally sourced products, most of the impetus remains with suppliers.

Produced by the Institute of Grocery Distribution and Business in the Community, the guide contains case studies of effective partnerships forged between small producers and large buyers, for example A.P. Jess' black face lamb and Booker, or speciality cheesemaker Anstey's of Worcester with Waitrose. Contributors offer advice to producers and retailers and demonstrate how all parties in the food chain can benefit.

The Prince of Wales referred to the "considerable pressure on retailers and food processors to 'do something'" and reminded onlookers that in many cases there was no quick fix. Business policy will need changing - and while this is never quick or easy, the scale and success of the major multiples means they should play a particular role.

Need to protect national food supply

Referring obliquely to the ongoing war on terrorism, the Prince of Wales expressed the opinion that, now more than ever, the UK must retain its ability to grow its own food. "All too many people think that we can survive by relying totally on the world market. But we must learn the lessons of history […]. To sacrifice long-term security through short-term convenience would be utter madness."

Over 10,000 copies of the guide, which is sponsored by Sainsbury's, HSBC and the National Farmers' Union, are being distributed.

If you would like a copy of the guide, please send an email to localsourcing@igd.com