Exclusive Clive Beddall Agriculture minister Nick Brown will call for a progress report on plans for a new code of best business practice for buyers and sellers when he meets food chain leaders at a private forum in London next week. The session, The Grocer has learned, will be attended by top UK farming officials, plus leading executives from manufacturing and retailing. It will be at MAFF's Nobel House head office on Thursday and is designed as a follow up session to Tony Blair's farm crisis summit at the end of March when he unveiled a £200m aid package for the ailing agriculture sector. Officials were saying little about the event this week, but MAFF insiders say the minister is keen to progress his "food industry unity" campaign, of which the new code is an important part. The Grocer understands that there have been several "challenging" ­ seen by some as a euphemism for "tough"­ meetings between would-be participants in recent weeks as they have strived to come up with the guiding principles for the code. One executive involved in the talks told The Grocer: "The code is one of the most important things ever to happen in grocery. But in the current climate it is important that all participants are comfortable with it. So there's a lot of talking to be done." Asda, Morrisons, Safeway, Sainsbury, Somerfield and Tesco are already supporting the idea and it is hoped it will ultimately include other chains as well as buyers and sellers in the foodservice sector. The minister, while pointing out that the Competition Commission is already looking closely at retailer/supplier relationships and may eventually impose a code, believes the industry "must get ahead of the game" and introduce the idea voluntarily. But Brown, like industry figures, believes the code should be flexible enough to take into account the new Competition Act as well as the trade's fast moving nature. - See Opinion page 12 {{NEWS }}