HC Deb 25 January 2002 vol 378 cc1168-9W
Mr. Breed

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to improve the competitiveness of agricultural co-operatives in the UK; and if she will make a statement. [29996]

Mr. Morley

[holding answer 24 January 2002]: We are supporting a number of initiatives to improve the competitiveness of both agricultural co-operatives and collaborative marketing groups.

With the NFU, we have been running a collaborative marketing initiative since 1998. This is aimed at helping farmers to recognise the many advantages of working together, particularly in relation to economies of scale and access to professional expertise. We have used joint representation at agricultural shows across a range of sectors to generate interest in this initiative.

Under the Agriculture Development Scheme, aimed at helping farmers and growers improve their competitiveness through better marketing, collaborative activities were given priority under bidding rounds held in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Successful bids in 1999 and 2000 included a project to benchmark best practice in farmer controlled businesses (Plunkett Foundation) and several projects from collaborative producer groups or co-operatives.

Opportunities for improving the competitiveness of co-operatives and collaborative marketing groups are also provided under the England Rural Development Programme through awards under the Processing and Marketing Grant and the measure on the marketing of quality agricultural products under the Rural Enterprise Scheme.

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