Asda is to ramp up the quantity of food sourced from British producers, including local and specialist suppliers, as part of a sustainable agriculture push by parent Walmart.

Asda intends to source an additional £270m of food from British producers by 2013. About £70m of the total will come from local specialists. The new target represents an increase of 15% in Asda’s annual sales of specialist local food.

Asda originally set up a local sourcing team in 2002 and now stocks more than 6,000 such lines from 500 suppliers.  

Chris Brown, Asda’s head of ethical and sustainable sourcing, said there is no sign of demand plateauing and the acquisition of Netto will bring more opportunities to sell such produce.

He said the localisation drive, as well as being environmentally and socially responsible, would enable Asda to create a “food lab” investigating a range of products “as broad as people’s imagination” and enabling small companies to grow,. He gave the example of blackberry gin, originally sold in one Cumbrian shop, which will go on sale in 200 Asda stores as a Christmas product.

Asda will also, alongside Walmart’s US business, only use sustainably produced palm oil in own-brand products by the end of 2015. That is expected to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5m metric tons by that date.

Launching Walmart’s sustainable agriculture programme, chief executive Mike Duke said the initiative would help reduce the environmental impact of farming, help farmers – including in developing countries - and provide consumers with affordable, high quality food.

Duke said: “Through sustainable agriculture, Walmart is uniquely positioned to make a positive difference in food production for farmers, communities and customers.

“Our efforts will help increase farmer incomes, lead to more efficient use of pesticides, fertilizer and water and provide fresher produce for our customers.”