UK: British food - government helps out ailing industry - COMMENT (Members)
The image of British food took a severe beating from the foot and mouth crisis. Now the government is putting GBP3 million into a marketing campaign to fight the waning consumer confidence, both at home and abroad. There is also going to be a series of three investigations into the outbreak, tackling the way it was handled, how any future outbreaks should be dealt with and the future of farming in Britain.
The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which announced the grant, has given the money to government-backed export marketing agency Food from Britain. Around GBP1.3 million will go towards re-establishing British sales in foreign countries. Exports of all animal-based foods were halted at the height of the crisis. It didn't seem very long before the European Commission allowed products such as cooked meats, chocolate and cheese to be exported again, but the damage is still being felt. Foreign competitors quickly filled the gaps left in the absence of British exports and UK food manufacturers are still fighting to get their place back. Food from Britain will also be investigating overseas attitudes to British food and drink in the wake of foot and mouth.
The remaining GBP1.7 million will be spent on marketing regional specialty foods from small producers. A nationwide promotional campaign, involving the distribution of recipe cards and a series of events, will be used to highlight the diversity of regional food production.
Compared to the enormous size of the British food industry GBP3 million is very small indeed, but it will help the companies and people suffering most from the outbreak. While the perception of British food will gradually improve again over time, a quick cash injection will at least start to get the ball rolling.
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