30 May 1997

Food Project Mark 2 goes into orbit

By Tim Relf

SON of the Strathclyde Food Project was born this week, with the launch of an Institute of Grocery Distribution initiative.

The Food Project will bring together companies from throughout the industry, with the aim of improving British competitiveness in the £100bn global market.

It marks the second stage of the Strathclyde Project, which ran from 1991 to 1996 and claimed to reduce the food deficit by £300m by increasing sales of bacon, soft fruit and regional foods.

With a first-year budget of £250,000, The Food Project will establish action groups, tackling issues affecting poultry, horticulture and small company matters.

One aim will be promoting "the heritage of British food, including regional specialities", according to an IGD spokesperson.

A beef advisory group will be set up, bringing together MAFF, the NFU, the Meat and Livestock Commission and supermarket representatives.

NFU deputy president, Tony Pexton, welcomed the "plough to plate" initiative.

The food chain, he said, needed such an industry-wide approach to tackle consumer concerns and ensure producers, manufacturers and retailers can compete in the global market. And he highlighted traceability and quality assurance as key issues.

World market

"On the world market, we want UK agriculture and the UK food industry to be the preferred suppliers," said Mr Pexton.

The initiative comes at a time when the UKs food trade balance is worsening. During 1996, although exports increased, a 9% rise in imports took the deficit to £7.5bn (Business, May 16).

Currency movements and the life of the beef export ban remain vital in this respect.