Sir; It is unfortunate that, as an unwilling victim of the latest shambles to be served up by Britain's creaking Fred Karno rail system, you were prevented from opening Food & Drink Expo at the NEC, this week. Had you been able to travel north of Watford Junction, I'm sure you would have relished the impressive blend of traditional quality and technological excellence which is the regional food and drink scene in these islands. Amid the international colour which made up this rejuvenated show, the home producers, brought together by Food from Britain stood out as a shining tribute to the effort which is going into developing a strong speciality food and drink sector in the UK. But even more of Britain's proactive army of regional producers want to join the ranks of the seasoned trade fair professionals. They want to be able, given their rich diversity, to stand proudly alongside the firms who have exhibited for so long under other more financially muscled international marketing bodies. Indeed, the Brits' enthusiasm at the NEC was all the more admirable given the Whitehall orchestrated cacophany that government will not have any spare cash for direct funding for the regional taste groups this year. Their cause must surely be voiced when the prime minister hosts his food summit next week. But, we hope, sir, that you and Mrs Beckett will bat enthusiastically for the local food groups when the time comes to persuade the Treasury to part with the money required to implement the radical proposals from the Curry Commission. May we also hope that, after all the rail nonsense on Monday morning, that an internal e-mail to transport secretary Stephen Byers adequately expressed your annoyance at missing this splendid "selling for Britain" exercise. However, we hope to see you in 2004 at what is destined to become one of Europe's most important and diverse food and drink shows, and an excellent shop window for speciality British food. Yours etc, {{OPINION }}