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Britain to spur food output with an eye to more exports

Britain is set to launch a major drive to increase food exports and home-grown produce within the next few years.

Agriculture Minister Peter Walker, who recently indicated support for a Food From Britain organization, has promised to aid a huge food development program with (STR)20 million ($36 million) over the next five years. The plan should make the United Kingdom an increasingly significant food exporter.

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Common Market countries buy an annual (STR)1 billion worth of British food, but this is only 1/17th of total European Community imports.

It is believed that the U.K. annually imports over (STR)3 billion worth of food which could be produced in Britain and which would create jobs for many of the country's 3 million unemployed.

The Food From Britain campaign, representing the main sectors of agriculture and food merchandising, will be fully operational by 1984. Industry will provide some funds for the program.

Although this year's annual Scottish agricultural show in Edinburgh has not indicated a large increase in food growing activity, overseas interest in U.K. agriculture remains high. The sophistication and variety of farming machinery and the quality of Scots animals at the Edinburgh exhibition have continued to draw worldwide interest.

And there are a growing number of community organized farms in Britain's cities, some of them attracting the unemployed.

An all-party House of Lords committee has recently advocated a (STR)2 billion public spending program within three years to try to reduce unemployment by 1 million. Although government economists see large-scale public investment as dangerously reflationary and are cool to the all-party group's view on new investment, many commentators apparently think large numbers of jobs can be produced for food growing projects on underutilized land.

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