Aldi has announced plans to increase the amount of food and drink it buys from British suppliers by £3.5bn a year within the next five years as it continues its rapid expansion across the UK.

The company is also investing £500m in new and upgraded stores, distribution centres and its supply chain in 2021, which will create over 4,000 jobs as well as new opportunities for British food and drink producers.

The National Farmers’ Union has praised Aldi’s commitment to the industry, with the chain already buying produce from Herefordshire’s farms, including AS Green and Co at Mathon, near Ledbury.

The farm, on the border with Worcestershire, sells its Tenderstem broccoli to the supermarket.

An NFU spokesperson said: “It’s positive news that Aldi is making further commitments to invest in the UK supply chain, a pledge which will help British food and farming businesses to grow.

“Aldi is already a big supporter of British agriculture, spending over £8 billion with British suppliers in 2019 and sourcing core ranges of fresh meat, milk and eggs from Britain.”

As well as the investment in British farming, Aldi is also planning to open more stores across the UK in 2021.

Giles Hurley, chief executive officer at Aldi UK, said: “We are expecting significant sales growth in 2021 as we open new stores and bring Aldi to more locations across the UK.

“With the vast majority of our grocery products now coming from British suppliers, our growth will lead to additional jobs and investment in our UK supply chain.”

Aldi has also confirmed that the immediate payment terms for small suppliers it introduced at the start of the coronavirus pandemic will be extended until the end of 2021.

This means that the supermarket will continue to process payments for suppliers with an annual turnover of less than £1m with Aldi as soon as they are submitted, benefitting more than 1,000 small British businesses in the supermarket’s supply chain.

It’s as the discount supermarket chain hailed record sales during the key Christmas period.

The retailer has revealed that sales rose by 10.6 per cent in the four weeks to December 24, compared with the same period last year.

Aldi said it was boosted by increased demand for premium products and online, highlighting a 75 per cent sales increase for its online wine and Specialbuy businesses.

Grocery sales in December were strong amid tightened tiered coronavirus restrictions, with restaurants, cafes and pubs shut across most of the UK.

Aldi said it was also buoyed by its expanded delivery business, with thousands of customers using its Click & Collect service and on-demand collaboration with Deliveroo.

The supermarket chain has said it will spend an additional £3.5 billion a year with British suppliers by 2025 as part of expansion plans which will also see it grow its stores portfolio.

Aldi, which currently has more than 900 stores, has said it plans to open around one store every week as it targets 1,200 stores by 2025.

Aldi has also committed to paying back more than £100 million in business rates relief it has received during the pandemic from the state.

The supermarket’’s chief executive Giles Hurley added: “We had a record Christmas with unprecedented demand for our award-winning products as customers pushed the boat out more than ever before.”