In a body blow to small UK exporters, Food from Britain has revealed it will disband UK operations next year when its funding runs out.

Three weeks after Defra announced it was pulling all support, FFB chair, Lady Sylvia Jay, told The Grocer: "By the end of this year we will start to point people in what I hope will be other and better directions."

For now, it was business as usual, she said, defending the decision not to seek private funding. "FFB was set up not as a commercial but as a public body," she said. "If we to try and make this a commercial business, we would need a completely different model."

SMEs targeting exports would be hit hardest, she said, though some slack would be picked up by UK Trade & Investment and regional development agencies. There would be interest from other bodies in FFB's exhibition and research functions, she added, revealing preliminary discussions were under way with the FDF to take on some of FFB's roles. It would "depend whether it can draw up something that is self-financing and useful to its members", she said.

FDF director of communications, Julian Hunt, said it was meeting FFB next week to discuss options.

Meanwhile, the nine international offices, which became commercial entities in 1993, have vowed to continue despite losing almost £2.4m of central office funding.

"FFB has played an invaluable role in developing our export business and will be sorely missed," said Andrew Stokes, export sales manager for Walkers Shortbread.