To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps (a) her Department, (b) executive agencies and (c) non-departmental public bodies sponsored by her Department are taking to improve the competitiveness of small and medium sized food and drink (i) producers and (ii) exporters. 
[holding answer 19 May 2003]: Various measures which have the potential to help small and medium sized food and drink producers increase competitiveness are set out in the Government's Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy, published in December 2002. These include the new Food Chain Centre, which is looking at ways to improve the efficiency of the food chain, and English Farming and Food Partnerships, which will support and promote cooperation and collaboration between farmers, and between farmers and the food chain. In addition, Food from Britain is undertaking a national support programme, which includes measures to increase competitiveness, for small and medium sized quality regional food producers.On the export side, the Department continues to provide grant aid to Food from Britain to carry out promotion of exports of food and drink: at least 50 per cent. of producers assisted must be SMEs.Through its Eat the View initiative the Countryside Agency is working in partnership with a wide range of organisations to encourage consumers to make the link between the food they eat and the countryside, thus encouraging demand for locally sourced food and drink typically supplied by small and medium producers. Most projects within the initiative will assist SMEs to improve their competitiveness.In addition the Home Grown Cereals Authority is working closely with all parts of the grain chain to improve the competitiveness of the UK arable industry both at home and overseas. The Meat and Livestock Commission works almost wholly with SMEs to improve efficiency by providing information and advice on breeding techniques, reducing production costs and improving marketing strategies, and by facilitating links between producers and the major supermarkets.Small and medium sized food and drink producers are also eligible to apply for grants under various schemes for projects that may contribute to improving their competitiveness.