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Produce Marketing

Volume 228: debated on Thursday 8 July 1993

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress is being made with the marketing of British agricultural produce.

The Government are committed to encouraging the agriculture and food industries to improve and enhance their marketing. That is why we have established the market task force within the Ministry, introduced the group marketing grant and promoted the Agriculture Bill.

Does my hon. Friend agree that even though food exports are now increasing at a faster rate than food imports, it is vital that we improve our trade position in food? Does he further agree that, given the competitive exchange rate, all the help that is given to producers with marketing and processing and all the help from Food From Britain, it is up to food companies to make the most of the opportunities that are available to them?

My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. There is no doubt that dazzling and glittering prizes are available for the food industry in its export markets. It is one of the industries in which Great Britain truly leads the world. I wholly endorse my hon. Friend's view that we look to the industry for greatly enhanced performance in marketing.

I refer the Minister to his earlier answer on the welfare of animals that are transported in awful conditions. Those conditions have no place in today's modern society. Is the Minister aware that the export of sheep from Britain has led to the closure of a modern abattoir in my constituency with the loss of 35 jobs? Surely the Ministry should encourage the export of farm produce chilled rather than on the hoof.

I explained to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy) why our continental friends prefer the export of animals on the hoof. The hon. Gentleman must understand that the business is important for our farmers. Equally, he is perfectly right to highlight the important welfare aspects of the business. That trade can take place only if the conditions in which it operates are honourable and have the integrity of properly enforced rules. I deeply regret the closure of the abattoir in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. I am afraid that that is a function of the marketplace and, for the moment, the very admirable British stock is commanding very high prices abroad.

When my hon. Friend meets those who buy British goods in this country, will he urge them to plan their purchases carefully and as gently as they do when they plan purchasing goods from abroad?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Naturally, we always hope that our British—[interruption.] I am grateful to the House. We always hope that our British goods, which are so very reasonably priced and so excellent in quality, will always command the support of the housewife wherever she buys them.