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Thank you, John. That supplementary question was nearly as long as my answer [Laughter.] Only the best for you, John. [Laughter.]
EU legislation prevents the procurement of food by public-sector bodies being based solely on local supply. Therefore, the challenge is to work with suppliers to help them to compete more successfully. DARD staff continue to provide technical support and advice to individual farmers or processors, producer groups or co-operatives, large and small, to help them to engage in public-sector contracts.
I have approved a new processing and marketing scheme under the rural development programme. Staff from the Loughrey campus of CAFRE have supported the central procurement directorate by providing advice on the specifications for public-food contracts. In addition, they have had an input into the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety’s Fit for Future initiative, which aims to improve the nutritional quality of food in hospitals.
The short answer to the Member’s question is yes; I am doing all that I can to ensure that all Departments — particularly those with the big spending power, such as the Department of Education and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety — engage in widespread public procurement wherever possible. I have written to the Health Minister and the Education Minister to encourage them to do that. My Department wants to see local produce on the menu, whether it is in Departments, Civil Service buildings, our hospitals or our schools. As the Member stated, that is one of the UFU’s five recommendations, and I assure him that it has not slipped off the list.