Up to 50 of the UK’s most successful farmer-controlled businesses have taken a step towards closer collaboration with the multiple retailers and foodservice operators, following an initiative from English Farming and Food Partnerships.

Companies like Asda, Tesco, McDonald’s and foodservice giant 3663 have become non-paying associate members of EFFP, where it is hoped they will help create a more transparent and efficient supply chain with members.

Vice chairman Lord Carter said: “It is a positive step towards building greater partnerships between farmers, growers and their food chain customers and suppliers.”

Most members at the organisation’s annual general meeting on 31 October described it as a positive move.

EFFP associate director Stuart Thomson said the food companies’ potential contribution was not yet clear.

But some of the supermarkets had already discovered more about their own supply chains as a result of similar collaboration and were hungry for more, he added.

“Eventually, I foresee a time when they come to us to buy services related to the supply chain, but we are wary not move too quickly.”

Chris Brown, agricultural produce manager at Asda, promised to provide information in the forum which would make it easier for farmers to provide what customers wanted.

“I will be as open as possible,” he said.

“It’s important because we need to be able to re-evaluate what we’re doing all the time.”

A range of 12 new services was also launched by EFFP on the same day to help farmer-controlled businesses improve their competitiveness.

They aim to provide expert advice on any aspect of collaboration, from start-up to corporate governance and risk management to lobbying.

Jeremy Pope, chairman of EFFP, said: “Running a professional FCB requires the same skills and approach as running an investor led company.

It is vital that those in charge of collaborative businesses recognise this and develop their business and people accordingly.”

Visit www.effp.com for details