HC Deb 18 November 1999 vol 339 c12W
Mr. Hoyle

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what advice he has received from the Food Chain Group; and if he will make a statement. [98610]

Mr. Nick Brown

The Food Chain Group comprised senior figures from the National Farmers Union, Food and Drink Federation, British Retail Consortium, IGD (formerly the Institute of Grocery Distribution) and MAFF, under the chairmanship of a senior MAFF official. The Group was invited to review the opportunities for working together and increasing understanding amongst the players in the food chain, and between the industry and consumers.

The Group has reported to me on the challengers and opportunities facing the food chain. The report stresses the vital importance of a viable and competitive food chain and identifies the need for action by industry and government to underpin consumer confidence in the quality and value of our food. The key messages include calls to: enhance the dialogue between partners in the food chain; improve communications with consumers; strengthen consumer confidence; and understand and act upon consumer concerns. The need for joined-up help from the Government to improve the industry's competitiveness is also identified.

I have asked the Policy Issues Council of IGD, which has senior representation across the supply chain, to consider how industry could best take the issues forward. We intend to review progress next Summer.

The report is being sent to a wide range of agri-food organisations and interests, and further copies are available from my Department. Copies have also been placed in the Library of the House.