Clive Beddall Chief executives of Sainsbury, the Co-operative Group, Spar and the IGD stood alongside the Prince of Wales at St James's Palace on Tuesday to give a high profile send-off to what could be the biggest ever boost for locally produced British foods. An initiative to encourage more farmers, supermarkets, independents and manufacturers to rethink their approach to sourcing and change practices where appropriate is one of three major features of an Action Plan for Rural Communities launched by Prince Charles in his role as president of Business in the Community. BITC is urging businesses to use their skills and resources to help revive the countryside and reinvigorate the rural economy. The move was welcomed by DEFRA minister of state Alun Michael, who said: "Government cannot produce a solution on its own. But we can achieve something by working together with you." BITC is working with IGD and major food retailers to develop case studies of best practice in local sourcing to prove it can be a competitive advantage. IGD chief executive Joanne Denney said: "We are conducting a thorough review of best practices nationwide and seeing if there are nuggets of gold we can pass on." But speaking to over 200 business leaders, Prince Charles denied the initiative would merely be a high profile talking shop. He said: "Today won't be just a lunch, a launch and a logo. The British countryside has never been more threatened than today, and the opportunities for business to make a real and lasting impact have never been greater." He argued the local pub could become the hub of village life, combining post office and village store. He cited one example in Suffolk where this was happening. Sainsbury chief executive Sir Peter Davis, who chairs Business in the Community, added:"Our job is to ensure the business response is as constructive and robust as possible. Even firms without direct rural relationships have a stake in ensuring a prosperous and secure future for Britain, and responding to the clear public concern about the health of rural communities that we saw during FMD." Major supermarkets have been actively developing support for local producers in recent months and prior to FMD, the NFU began a regional branding initiative with Somerfield. Sainsbury, for example, has created a dedicated regional sourcing team to select locally produced foods from all parts of the UK. It currently stocks over 2,480 regional lines for sale in the region of their origin and these are sourced from nearly 375 regional suppliers. Sir Peter added: "Some products have been so successful they are now on sale in stores outside their immediate vicinity." Rural Action is being driven by a leadership team of BITC member companies. Other executives playing major roles in the campaign include Co-operative Group chief executive Graham Melmoth, who chairs a sub group focusing on building enterprising communities, and Spar md Morton Middleditch. The additional arms of the BITC drive are seeking to build enterprising communities and to strengthen market towns. - See Duchy Originals, p44. {{NEWS }}