Page last updated at 20:40 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Fight on to save local food group

The network promotes local farm and croft produce

A group that helps promote small food producers said it wants to carry on in its role following a funding crisis.

Highlands and Islands Local Food Network (HILFN) had said it could not continue without assistance from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

It has since received more than 40 messages of support.

HILFN's Jo Hunt said: "Consumers want more local food and producers want our support - we clearly still have a role to play."

The National Farmers Union of Scotland, Scottish Crofting Foundation, Seafood Scotland and Inverness Chamber of Commerce have been among groups that have sent messages, the network said.

'Important businesses'

HIE, which has withdrawn its core funding of the organisation, said its emphasis was now on helping businesses that wanted to trade beyond the region.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott called on the rural affairs secretary to step in.

In a letter to Richard Lochhead he said: "I have little doubt that HIE's withdrawal of the core funding for the Highlands and Islands Local Food Network was to a great extent forced on them by the cut in their budget imposed by Scottish ministers.

"I therefore believe that it is up to Scottish ministers to find the funding.

"These businesses have always been very important, as they exist in areas where alternative economic opportunities are hard to find, but they are particularly importance during a recession.

"Your remarks last month that 'We must do all we can to continue to support this vital industry, particularly in the current economic climate' are therefore particularly relevant when applied to small food and drink producers in the Highlands and Islands."

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