The new food chain centre proposed by the Commission on the Future of Farming and Food could be up and running in a skeletal form in a matter of weeks. The quicker it can prove its mettle, said IGD research and development director Jon Woolven, the quicker it can get its hands on vital government cash. Woolven, who will retain his post at IGD, will lead the centre in its initial stages, reporting to IGD chief executive Joanne Denney. Invitations for the 12-strong steering group to guide and prioritise the centre's activities will be agreed and issued by IGD and Deirdre Hutton, food chain centre chairwoman, this month, with the first meeting in the spring. In the meantime, the centre will be staffed by secondees from DEFRA and the NFU explained Woolven. "This allows us to get going quickly." The first projects ­ the red meat value chain analysis and produce benchmarking initiative ­ will get under way almost immediately. While the steering group will be a permanent body ­ albeit with rotating membership ­ the centre will be run by a staff of about six, plus a technical advisory group. Specialist teams will be recruited to assist with each major project, typically resourced from food chain centre staff and partnership organisations, he added. "With red meat, we're working with the MLC; on produce, it's the Horticultural Development Council. The steering group exists to give advice rather than resources." He conceded that the rate at which the centre could tackle its growing "list of ideas for future activities" would depend on government cash. "We have resources for the first year and hope to scale things up in future. But first we must prove ourselves." Currently, the government has only committed £300,000 to the centre, with more cash to follow depending on EU state aid rules. However, overheads will be vastly reduced by housing the centre, at least in the short term, in offices within IGD premises in Watford. {{NEWS }}