UK retail giant Tesco has pledged to double the amount it spends on buying fresh beef, pork and chicken from farmers in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the launch of Queen’s University Belfast’s Institute of Global Food Security, CEO Philip Clarke said it was important to “work more closely” with producers.

“The horsemeat issue has reinforced my view and has demonstrated that we have to move much more quickly than I first thought would be necessary. I am very clear that the best way to have more control of the meat supply chain is to produce more of it closer to home.

He added: “We know our customers’ appetite for products from the UK and Ireland is greater than ever and we want to give them every opportunity to buy products produced locally. We already do a lot to support Northern Irish agriculture, but I think we can go even further.”

Clarke said he aims to source as much of what it sells in Northern Ireland from the province.

“It’s what our customers want, it’s what we want,” he said. “Within the next few weeks, we will go from sourcing less than 20% of the meat we sell here locally to around 90%. And we’re not going to stop there – we’re going to do everything within our power to get as close as we can to 100%.”

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Clarke’s announcement comes weeks after he indicated Tesco would source more meat in the UK as it looks to tighten security down the supply chain in response to the horsemeat scandal. The CEO told the BBC’s Today radio programme it will begin by offering two-year supply contracts in order to help promote a sustainable British agriculture sector.

Tesco was one of the first retailers to become embroiled in the horsemeat contamination scare when it emerged that its stores were selling private-label beefburgers and ready meals containing horse DNA. The company has responded by stepping up scrutiny of its supply chain and implementing a more stringent testing regime.