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Local Food Chains

Volume 498: debated on Thursday 29 October 2009

We provide a range of assistance to local food chains, including helping regional and local food producers to overcome various barriers to market. We have funded meet-the-buyer events for both retailers and the food service sector. We also support farmers markets and farm shops, and encourage the use of food hubs and shared distribution facilities.

I thank the Minister for that answer. It is common for people to mouth support for local food chains, but in the past year, two box schemes that I belonged to finished prematurely, which is very disappointing. There is clearly a problem in this day and age. I wonder whether the Government ought to do more, and certainly whether they ought to encourage local authorities to do more.

I am sure that we would want to do more. Only last week I had a useful meeting with representatives from the National Farmers Retail and Markets Association to discuss a range of issues relating to farmers and markets and farm shops. I commend my hon. Friend on the excellent local food initiatives in his constituency. Only last week, officials from the food policy unit in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs visited Gloucestershire to find out more about a wide range of food-oriented activities that are taking place in the county. I am sure that we will be able to use the information and disseminate it to local authorities to improve the situation even further.

Did the Minister hear the piece on “Farming Today” this morning on what is likely to happen to food prices over the next 20 years? I will not try your patience, Mr. Speaker, so may I just ask the Minister whether he will add his voice to mine in seeking a full day’s debate on agriculture from the Leader of the House?

I remember fondly my first week as Minister of State with responsibility for farming, from 9 June, when I believe that we had two debates in the House on agriculture. We would welcome more debates on agriculture. I suggest the hon. Gentleman applies to your good offices, Mr. Speaker, for that very opportunity. We would be delighted to meet him across the Dispatch Box.

As we celebrate British food week, may I tell the House that I recently visited the Anglesey oyster fair in my constituency, where I saw the very best of British food? One issue that local producers raised with me was the barrier to getting into local supermarkets. Is it not about time that we had a proper champion—an ombudsman—to redress the balance in favour of the British consumer and the British producer and away from the supermarket?

I think my hon. Friend has managed to merge three questions into one: the retail sector supporting local produce, barriers to local producers getting into supermarkets and the ombudsman. I can assure him that on the ombudsman, the Government are considering the Competition Commission’s recommendations. I can also assure him that we are doing what we can to ensure that local producers can get into supermarkets.