Ed Bedington
Retailers are being called upon to engage with farming leaders to improve overall knowledge of the supply chain.
The English Farming and Food Partnership is keen to get a true picture of what the overall situation is in the supply chain and particularly how much collaboration exists between the various links.
Sion Roberts, chief executive, said the EFFP had received £133,000 worth of funding from the major retailers through the Farmers Fund.
"We're extremely grateful for that, but now we need to let the retailers know that we seriously need to engage with them so that they understand what we are trying to do.
"We need to find out what kind of things they are up to and hopefully share any knowledge we pick up with them as well."
Roberts said that the partnership, set up in the wake of the Curry Report, was rolling out a series of projects over the next few years, the first of which would be research to assess the levels of collaboration that are going on in the supply chain.
He said there needed to be an overall view of what was happening: "The retailers understand their supply chain and the farmers understand how they set up a machine ring, but on the aggregate level, there's a gap in knowledge."
Jeremy Pope, chairman of the partnership, said: "We need to find out not only what has worked in the past but also what has failed."
The first quarter of next year will see the group publish an industry strategy on collaboration in the food chain which will outline EFFP's interpretation of the research and include an action plan on how to take the industry forward, said Roberts.
The changes announced in the Common Agricultural Policy last week would mean a fundamental change in the way farmers conducted their businesses.
Although the changes were not set to take effect until 2005, both farmers and retailers needed to be planning for the future, he added.