The increasing cult status of the celebrity chef has often been cited as one of the main reasons for the growth and popularity of local food. But a lot more is at state.

A link can and should be made to the efforts of chefs like Rick Stein and James Martin in promoting the rich variety of food that is produced locally. But in the five years I’ve been at the CLA, it is only in the last 18 months that the general public has come to appreciate the efforts of local producers in getting their product onto the market.

No one individual is responsible rather, it has been through the actions of many. Frankly, this is only the beginning of the local food story.

Although at the CLA since 2002 following stints at the NFU and in Brussels, it was less than two years ago that Dr Trotman found himself co-ordinating the CLA’s Food Chain Initiative.

At that point, it was a very steep learning curve in trying to identify how the CLA could focus on the food issue and make an impact, both for our members and for the producers of local food.

Part of the culture

Since that time, I have seen projects come and go, some being successful while others have foundered. However, it’s true to say that local food has become part of the culture and through the efforts made, raise the public’s consciousness to the wealth of good quality food that is now available.

The central aim of the CLA’s Food Chain Initiative is to actively promote, through the political process, the efforts of CLA members to add value to their products.

This has included lobbying for greater awareness of EU protected status (the PDO/PGI system) for local products, seeking to aid suppliers in their dealings with the main retailers, and providing advice on how to reach the market.

Today, we can see producers looking at new opportunities that are necessary following the CAP reforms. Many see local food as the best chance of securing their future.

A graphic example of the food chain initiative at work was this year’s CLA Game Fair at Broadlands, Hampshire.

Coherent programme 

It was a mammoth effort to put together a coherent programme for three days that would work. Linking up with Hampshire Fayre was a major boost to the event and stimulated the public’s interest in the food of the region.

We were also able to showcase local products, from venison to English wines as well as putting on seminars for Food From Britain and EBLEX. What the Game Fair proved was that there is huge interest in this area from the public. It exceeded all our expectations and we only had nine weeks to put it together.

So what’s next for the CLA’s Food Chain Initiative? The main issue will be to seek a voluntary agreement with the food service sector for country of origin labelling for all primary products.

Of course, the Competition Commission Inquiry into the supermarkets is ongoing and we will be launching the “Just Ask” campaign for consumers to question where their food comes from that will run during the CLA’s centenary year.

Finally, we will continue to press for more products to be awarded EU protection as well as pushing for a more flexible and relaxed regulatory system.

Frankly, I can’t understand why we have to be strangled by red tape when what is needed is greater innovation that can satisfy the entrepreneurial spirit of so many food producers.

*To find out more about the CLA’s Food Chain Initiative log onto www.cla.org.uk

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