Elaine Watson
The government will publish its long-awaited action plan outlining its response to the Curry report, and a long-term strategy for sustainable food and farming, on December 12.
DEFRA secretary of state Margaret Beckett told The Grocer the document had been "extensively rewritten" since the first drafts.
This view was backed up by industry sources who claimed the latest version represented a "substantial improvement" over a draft circulating in early October, variously described as "a dog's breakfast" and "completely unfocused".
Concerns that the report could effectively be derailed by the recent developments in Europe over CAP reform were overstated, said one source. "The government is committed to funding this whether or not there is substantial reform in the mid-term review of CAP.""
However, the report does not contain any detailed costings and there is still work going on behind the scenes to ensure funds are properly allocated.
Soil Association director Patrick Holden said he hoped the government would outline plans to get more locally produced organic food into schools and hospitals.
Informed public opinion as well as the market would be the key drivers of change, said Holden, and cash should be set aside to educate the public about the relationship between farming, food quality and health.
The NFU said farmers were "understandably jaundiced" after a series of action plans that had yielded little, and called on the government to tackle the regulation culture that "threatens to strangle the industry", and to boost investment in R&D and alternative crops.
Retail sources said they expected the report would suggest they stumped up some cash to drive forward the relaunched red tractor, but hoped the government would also put its hands in its pockets.
Manufacturing sources said progress had already been made in several areas outlined in the Curry report, including the establishment of a food chain centre, an English collaboration board and an organics action plan, but work still needed to be done to tackle the regulatory burden facing processors along with a recognition they were operating in global markets.

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