5 September 1997

HGCAs five-yearly review will ask if it is needed at all

By Shelley Wright

THE announcement of the five-yearly review of the Home-Grown Cereals Authority has failed to generate much excitement.

Both the NFU and trade representative body UKASTA said that, in general, their members were quite satisfied with the HGCAs remit, performance and levy rates.

And Tony Williams, HGCA chief executive, said he would be most surprised if the review revealed anything other than that the authority was in line with what the industry wanted from it.

The review was announced by junior farm minister Lord Donoughue in emotive terms. He said: "I can assure you it will be a thorough review which will start by asking whether there is a continued need for the authority at all."

Mr Williams said some had taken that to mean that radical change was required. That was not the case. All reviews of non-departmental public bodies, such as the HGCA, used the principle "lets just make sure there is a need to carry on" as their starting point.

The HGCA worked extremely closely with farmers and the trade, keeping in touch all the time with what the industry wanted. But Mr Williams welcomed the review as an opportunity for other groups, such as consumer organisations, with which the HGCA did not have regular contact, to put forward their views.

Philip Hudson, NFU oilseeds adviser, said the union had yet to consult all its relevant committees about the review. "But I imagine the vast majority of farmers are satisfied with the HGCAs performance."

Generally very supportive

Jamie Day, UKASTAs cereals spokesman, said he believed members were generally very supportive of the market information service that HGCA provided. But there would be a mixed reaction to the authoritys research and development remit.

"We represent seed merchants and seed breeders. The breeders would probably say that they get value for money from the research, while the merchants response is likely to be that they get little benefit from that work," Mr Daysaid.