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Thursday, 9 August, 2001, 22:46 GMT 23:46 UK
Boost for British food industry
British farm standard meat
Sales of British produce have been hit by the crisis
The government is giving a 3m boost to the UK's food and drink industry to help it recover from the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Half the money - announced by the Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs - will go towards promoting British produce abroad.

The government has also promised three independent inquiries into the foot-and-mouth crisis.

But it has rejected calls for a full public inquiry, saying that this would be too expensive and would take too long.

'Welcome' boost

Food is Britain's biggest manufacturing industry - worth more than 100bn a year - so the 3m cash injection is relatively small.

But, it is being warmly welcomed by firms worst hit by foot-and-mouth.

At the start of the crisis, the food industry says it was netting losses of some 50m-a-week.

There was a total freeze of exports of animal-based foods.

Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair is showing his support for the food industry
When the European Commission relaxed the rules, products such as cooked meats, cheese and chocolate could, after all, be sold abroad.

But although business slowly picked up, new competitors have filled the gaps - and UK food manufacturers are trying to fight back.

More than half the 3m will be spent in the UK - particularly boosting the marketing and promotion of regional food such as farmers markets.

The rest will be spent by the export marketing agency - called Food From Britain - on rebuilding overseas sales.

Learning the lessons

Meanwhile, three investigations have been announced to look at the lessons which can be learned from the crisis.

But they fall short of demands by the Conservative Party for a full public inquiry.

They will consist of an examination of the government's handling of the outbreak, a scientific review and a commission on the future of farming and food.

The policy commission - chaired by Sir Don Curry, former head of the Meat and Livestock Commission - will consider the future of farming and the balance between farming and rural communities in England.

Disease facts
Total: 1,941
New cases Thursday: 5
Slaughtered: 3,701,000
Awaiting slaughter: 18,000
Awaiting disposal: 3,000
A similar review is taking place in Wales and one is being considered by the Scottish Executive.

The science review to be carried out by the Royal Society will examine how future epidemics can be prevented from breaking out in England, Scotland and Wales. It will be chaired by Sir Brian Follett.

The third inquiry, chaired by Dr Iain Anderson, will look at the government's handling of the crisis and whether any mistakes were made.

The National Audit Office is already investigating the government's handling of compensation payments to farmers hit by the disease.

There have been 1,941 cases of foot-and-mouth across the UK, with 3,701,000 animals slaughtered.

The disease has also affected one of Britain's biggest agriculture shows, which has opened without any farm animals for the first time in its 106-year history.

Organisers of the Devon County Show were forced to rebrand it as family entertainment rather than the traditional industry event.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jane O'Brien
"The money will be used...to improve consumer confidence"
The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"More than half of the new funding will help promote regional food"
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