5 April 2002

ASHORTERFOODCHAINBUILTONTRUSTCOULDBOOSTFARMINGPROFIT

Trust is vital in any partnership. Particularly in partnerships as diverse as those found in the food chain.

So government backing for several food chain initiatives, announced at last weeks Downing Street meeting of industry leaders, is welcome. It will help to realise the vision contained in the Curry report on food and farming, which urged greater collaboration and a shorter food chain to improve competitiveness and profits for everyone.

The Industry Forum, a think-tank set up to examine the red meat food chain, recommended much the same. The result is some desperately needed funding to help reform.

About £5m has been earmarked for projects that will improve market performance and competitiveness, including the establishment of a new, national food chain centre. That should foster better relationships throughout and identify best-practice supply chains.

Farmers could be forgiven for thinking they have heard it all before. Phrases such as "understand your customer" and "get closer to the market" have been used for years.

Moving up the chain or forming partnerships is seldom easy. As the Industry Forum found out, there arent many shining examples to choose from. But they do exist, as this weeks Food Chain Special in our Business Section reports.

Much progress remains to be made. Too often in the past, farmers have been blamed for breaking the chains links. Success stories involve complex relationships. That means processors and supermarkets must be as open as farmers.

Co-operation, collaboration, openness, and integrity are all vital ingredients from all parties in the food chain. Sadly, they are often rare.

Without that trust, no amount of cash, from government or elsewhere, will help build the long-term links that are needed to bring farmers, processors and retailers together to thrash out solutions that will benefit all.