As the countdown to Christmas continues everyone will be making their festive plans.

In the Sunak household we will be sticking to a longstanding guiding principle – shop local.

While I was hugely encouraged to read in the D&S earlier this month that many local retailers are optimistic for their prospects in 2024, they all need a good Christmas season. For many of them, it is the most important time of the year.

And the more we all shop locally, the more our money helps to support jobs in our local economy.

For the centrepiece of your Christmas table, whether it is traditional turkey or beef, pork, lamb etc, you can’t go wrong using your high street butcher. With Kitson’s and Thompson’s in Northallerton, Cockburn’s and Asquith’s in Bedale, Angus Morton in Richmond, Petch’s in Great Ayton, Campbell’s of Leyburn, and Hammond’s in Bainbridge, plus the many farm shops, we are spoilt for choice.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Rishi Sunak with his Lewis and Cooper hamper

For a pork pie, my preference is always for Kitson’s although I recently called in to Petch’s where I was astonished to learn that the shop produces more than 6,000 pies a week – so they are clearly popular too.

Christmas isn’t Christmas for us without a visit to Lewis and Cooper’s incredible delicatessen in Northallerton.

I recently visited the High Street store to select some of my favourite festive foods, as many as possible produced in North Yorkshire.

First thing in my hamper was Wensleydale Creamery’s Wensleydale and Cranberries cheese truckle, closely followed by Elijah’s Yorkshire Chutney, made by Raydale Preserves at Hawes.

Raydale’s Aunt Lena’s piccalilli is ideal for cold cuts on Boxing Day so that was also selected.

Lewis and Cooper’s legendary iced fruitcake and plum pudding is produced in Northallerton and that is another must-have.

While coffee could not ever be considered truly local produce, we do have our own coffee roasters – Rountons Coffee based in East Rounton. Their House Blend produced specially for Lewis & Cooper also found its way into the Sunak hamper.

Being Prime Minister has given me the wonderful opportunity to promote local food businesses like these on a bigger stage. At the Christmas lights switch on in Downing Street last month I used the opportunity to host a Christmas showcase event that gave businesses from around the UK the chance to promote their products. The food and drink producers included Elizabeth Graves and her team from Mocha – the amazing chocolate-making and retailing business from Richmond.

Back in May, at a No 10 UK Farm to Fork Summit attended by leading members of the food and farm industry, I was delighted to have the Swaledale Cheese Company present among the UK producers who were demonstrating the amazing breadth and quality of British food and drink.

We should all be proud of the work of our local food and farming industry – and back it in any way we can.

I hope you all have a great, locally-sourced, festive season where possible, a happy Christmas and a great 2024.