A new study will investigate moving Birmingham's famous wholesale markets to release the city centre land for redevelopment.
Birmingham City Council is commissioning a feasibility study to look at options for securing the future of the markets as a "unique local resource and a national centre for the UK food supply chain".
If the study concludes the markets need to move, a 21-acre city centre site would be released to improve connections between the Irish Quarter, Eastside and the Arcadian area, and the city centre core.
A report to the council cabinet on November 28 asks for the appointment of a food retail consultant to carry out a feasibility study on the markets.
The council is looking to produce a business plan to accommodate the needs of wholesalers who wish to expand.
The report states: "Not to proceed will ultimately result in the loss of wholesale to other centres outside Birmingham
"This could lead to the market position weakening and food distributors operating from other wholesale markets."
The markets directly support 1,300 jobs and 98 per cent of the available space is occupied by businesses.
The wholesale markets, opened at Digbeth in 1974, forms the largest integrated complex of its kind in the UK and acts as a central food supply hub in a national chain extending to London, Manchester and Liverpool.
However, the markets house a large number of national businesses, many of which now wish to expand. Birmingham is also the only UK city to retain wholesale markets in the city centre.
Cabinet member for regeneration, Coun Ken Hardeman (Con Brandwood), said: "The wholesale markets are a unique asset for the city and a national resource.
"We need to explore all the options for retaining them as a viable and vibrant commercial operation and this study will be a very important part of the process.
"We are working closely with the wholesale market traders through the bimonthly wholesale markets liaison meeting to ensure that we get the best possible outcome for all stakeholders.
"No decision on the future of the markets will be made without their input, which is vital."
The current markets site includes horticultural, fish, poultry and meat markets, as well as warehousing and ancillary space.
There are 235 trading units made up of 31,000 square metres of trading space operating 365 days a year.
The markets are provided by the city council under a royal charter dating from 1166, effectively granting the council a monopoly right to operate markets within the city.
In 1816, the Street Commissioners purchased the old moated Manor House of the De Birmingham family and a year later opened the Smithfield Cattle Market on a site which now forms part of the current markets precinct.
The city meat market and abattoir in Bradford Street opened in 1897.
The deterioration of the old Smithfield and city meat markets, the loss of the fish markets in Bell Street for the new Inner Ring Road, and congestion of the streets around the wholesale area, all led to the decision to build the current markets complex in 1974.