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Food from Britain

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 26 March 2008

In reaching decisions on allocations to individual budgets arising out of DEFRA’s CSR settlement it has been decided to reduce the amount of grant-in-aid available to Food from Britain (FFB) for 2008-09 to £4 million, with the expectation that the funding will come to an end before the conclusion of the CSR period. We concluded that maintaining a subsidised consultancy service for British food exporters was a lower priority than ensuring adequate funds were available for dealing with the consequences of animal diseases, providing for a full programme of food and farming research (including work on identifying animal disease strains and vaccines) and continuing to improve the service the Rural Payments Agency provides to farmers.

In taking the decision to reduce DEFRA’s grant-in-aid to FFB we were conscious of the extent to which the organisation is dependent on that source of funds to pay for its operations. Following consideration of these matters by FFB’s Council, we have therefore agreed with the Council that subject to formal confirmation by Ministers in the devolved Administrations, FFB should wind down its activities over the coming year with a view to it ceasing operations by 31 March 2009 in anticipation of its formal dissolution in law when a suitable legislative vehicle can be found.

Over the years FFB has provided excellent support to exporters for food and drink and I would like to pay tribute to the staff, Council members and office holders who have made this possible. We are considering with FFB, the devolved Administrations and other interested parties whether there is scope for alternative arrangements for dedicated export support for the food and drink sector. This might, for example, involve the licensing of the FFB brand, or transfer of certain elements of the FFB business to the private sector. We would welcome any expressions of interest from organisations which might wish to take over elements of FFB’s business. In the meantime, FFB will continue to provide support over the coming year. Support for food and drink exporters will also continue be available from UKTI. UKTI provide services to all types of businesses including those in the food and drink sector. Over many years, UKTI have funded FFB to take groups of companies to exhibitions and trade fairs—this will continue.