Morrisons has launched a campaign to recruit more than 200 new local suppliers as part of a drive to increase UK self-sufficiency in food production.

Its campaign coincides with a new report, commissioned by Morrisons, which reveals that only 52% of food eaten in the UK comes from British farmers.

The British Food report, led by the University of Leeds, is calling for the UK to be more self-sufficient in food production in the wake of continued global uncertainty and reliance on food production elsewhere in the world.

It revealed that the UK now exported £18bn of food while importing £39bn of food from 168 different countries.

Morrisons’ campaign, The Nation’s Local Foodmakers, aims to recruit more than 200 new suppliers from across England, Scotland and Wales in the first year. Its own research found that 67% of shoppers in a survey of 2,000 stated a preference to buy British, with the remainder expressing no preference.

Andy Higginson, chairman of Morrisons, said: “Our customers tell us they want to see more food that is made just down the road from their own communities and that’s why we are looking for the next generation of British and local foodmakers to serve our 12 million customers.

“We want small UK food suppliers to become bigger ones – the Innocent Smoothies of tomorrow – and we also want to give our customers the option of more food that meets their local food tastes.”

Professor Tim Benton, lead author of the report and an expert on global food security, said: “It makes absolute sense to build up a stronger local food sector here in the UK and increase our resilience, meaning we could maintain access to a range of quality, locally produced goods.

“Global trade has a strong role to play in our economy and for our nation, especially because the UK can never be entirely self-sufficient, but producing and buying more food locally will increase our protection against risks.

“These risks, whether that be climate change or trade wars, could increase over time, but more importantly, we also need to recognise the benefits of supporting UK food making and production.”