Brown attempts to appease farmers

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Agriculture Minister Nick Brown today moved to appease angry farmers with the publication of new food labelling guidelines to ensure shoppers can tell if products they are buying are really British.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown today moved to appease angry farmers with the publication of new food labelling guidelines to ensure shoppers can tell if products they are buying are really British.

With no sign of a let-up in the unofficial "beef war" with France, Mr Brown said the "British Food Kitemark" should prevent food products made with foreign ingredients being passed off as British.

Mr Brown made his announcement at a one-day conference in London on a platform alongside National Farmers' Union president Ben Gill, who warned that the influx of cheap foreign imports masquerading as British was creating a financial crisis in UK agriculture.

However the minister found himself under fire after he admitted that he had not spoken directly to his French counterpart, Jean Glavany, in more than a week, despite the deepening crisis.

In a further sign of the deteriorating situation, Mr Glavany last night announced that he was cancelling a weekend visit to Britain to see Mr Brown so that he could join French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin on an official trip to the West Indies.

But Mr Brown dismissed a suggestion that he should telephone Mr Glavany directly to prevent the situation spiralling out of control.

"I just think that is nonsensical," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, adding that the two governments were in close contact at official level.

However, the Tories said that it was an "extraordinary admission" that there had been no direct contact with Mr Glavany.

"At a time like this is absolutely essential that Nick Brown should be in daily contact with his opposite number in France," said shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo.

"His failure to do so is just one more item in a catalogue of incompetence, mismanagement and inaction."

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