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Food Exports

Volume 175: debated on Thursday 28 June 1990

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what contribution the food industry has made to Britain's export performance in the current year.

In the year to March 1990, United Kingdom exports of food and drink amounted to nearly £5·7 billion, about 6 per cent. of the total value of our visible exports.

My hon. Friend gives slightly more encouraging figures than has been the trend in recent years. As he is widely acknowledged as a gourmet, he will know that British raw materials for food are about the best in the world. What are the Government doing to encourage people abroad to benefit in the same way from British food? Given that the food and drink industry is the largest employer and the largest industry in the European Community, and that many of the largest companies are multinational, we must ensure that our products are available throughout the Community on a wider basis after 1992.

I agree with my hon. Friend. As he will know, we have just appointed Mr. Paul Judge as the new chairman of Food From Britain, which is our major promotional arm, and which has been endowed with £3.5 million. The Government will contribute £1 for every £3 raised by business to promote British food. This is an important issue, and we intend to ensure that British food is widely available on the continent because of its excellence.

Fish and shellfish form part of our exports. As regards the export of farmed Scottish salmon, what action is the Minister taking to persuade the European Commission to institute anti-dumping measures against Norwegian farmed salmon producers? Was not that one of the recommendations in yesterday's Agriculture Select Committee report on "Fish Farming in the UK"? What action are the Government taking to persuade the Commission to sort out that dumping problem?

The Government have actively promoted the anti-dumping case on behalf of farmed salmon producers in the United Kingdom. I have spoken directly to the Norwegian Minister responsible for trade about the issue. I understand that in recent months there has been some relief, in the sense that the Norwegians have taken certain measures, and that prices of farmed salmon have begun to recover. This is a most important issue, and we shall continue to press the case with the Commission until we are certain that competition is fair throughout the Community.

Will my hon. Friend hold discussions with his colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry to ensure that the food industry has the backing of our offices abroad as far as possible, especially because of the difficulties that some food industries have encountered with counterfeiting, so that we may increase exports by the food industry and that great British companies, in particular, confectionary companies, do not continue to suffer in this way—and Kit Kat can be exported without the problem of counterfeit Kit Kit?

I shall certainly undertake to discuss that matter with my friends from the Department of Trade and Industry. My hon. Friend will know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently visited several countries in eastern Europe with the specific purpose of promoting, among other things, British food exports and exports of British food-producing machinery to those countries.