17 January 1996

MAFF backs plans for agri-business centre worth £1.1m

By Tony McDougal

PLANS for a £1.1m agri-business centre at the National Agricultural Centre, Stoneleigh, have received backing from MAFF.

The scheme, proposed by the Royal Agricultural Society of England and farm business consultants Andersons, aims to strengthen the international competitiveness of UK agriculture and agri-business.

It is one of 39 bids invited by MAFF to proceed to the full bid stage of the sector challenge; a scheme launched last year to improve the targeting of government grants. If successful, it could result in a grant of up to £400,000.

Mike Ducker, RASE agricultural director, said the scheme would identify opportunities for and threats to British agriculture, drawing on a wide range of sources, including trade bodies, academic research, new and existing contracts and government and international agencies.

With three full-time employees, the centre will collect, evaluate and disseminate information on competitor countries, promote UK agri-business and complement work carried out by Food from Britain and the Institute of Grocery Distribution.

"This is an exciting and timely bid which catches the spirit of the millennium, and which aims directly at strengthening our industrys ability to compete overseas as markets become more global," said Dr Ducker.

International activities

"British agriculture is having to fight increasingly hard to preserve its markets and develop new ones. This project would build on the societys strengths and its existing international activities at the Royal Show, which already attract many foreign visitors and provide a shop window for British products."

David Anderson, senior partner, said Andersons would be looking after the commercial end of the operation and attempt to encourage further support from industry.