Clive Beddall, Anne Bruce Britain's food and drink exporter of the year has launched an unprecedented attack on MAFF for the way it has managed export procedures during the foot and mouth outbreak. It describes the ministry's handling of export issues as "a shambles" and has called for the government to appoint a special food minister under the auspices of the DTI, not MAFF. Patak's exports to 45 countries make up 25% of the company's turnover and overseas sales have risen by nearly 20% in the past three years. In December it won Food from Britain's much coveted exporter of the year title, sponsored by The Grocer. But Patak's public protest is highly embarrassing for ministry officials as it comes just one week after it was revealed Food from Britain and MAFF had begun talks about a "recovery plan" to help UK exporters recover overseas trade once the FMD outbreak is over. In a letter to The Grocer, Patak's md David A Page, said: "It appears MAFF's prime objective in the crisis has been to manage issues relating to the farming industry, rather than the food chain in total." He adds: "Having created a Food Standards Agency, which implicitly recognises the criticality of safe food within our society, why not create a food minister, within the DTI? Surely this would be an improvement on the current arrangements." Patak's md claims that, eight weeks from when the outbreak was first identified, there are no clearly agreed export procedures in many of key markets. "It has taken nearly two months to identify what procedures and documentation are required to resume shipping to EU countries, and arrangements for other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and Czechoslovakia have still not been finalised." A similar protest came from another prominent UK food exporter. John Carr, export manager of Singletons Dairy, said: "I have clients in five countries that want our cheese, whose authorities have no problem in letting our cheese in ­ but we aren't allowed to export! We are eight weeks into foot and mouth and MAFF is still dragging its feet on the export certification process!" However, in other areas of the trade the export crisis appears to be "levelling off" according to the Provision Trade Federation. Director general Clare Cheney said: "Judging by the lack of complaints from my members in the last few days, things seem to have settled down. But what is going to happen to the markets if fmd carries on much longer is anyone's guess." {{NEWS }}