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Volume 507: debated on Monday 15 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he has made a recent assessment of the level of the administrative burden on the agriculture industry. (322311)

In DEFRA's recent Simplification Plan ‘Simplifying the Business Environment: Driving Burdens Down’, published in December 2009, DEFRA reported that it was on target to achieve a 20 per cent. reduction in administrative burdens by May 2010. The report details measures that affect the agriculture industry. Between the simplification measures already implemented and other activities currently in progress, we anticipate DEFRA will meet and may even exceed the 25 per cent. target by May 2010.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to encourage retailers to purchase domestically-produced agricultural products. (322312)

The purchasing decisions of retailers are a commercial matter for them, and EU state aid guidelines on advertising specifically preclude publicly subsidised “Buy British” campaigns.

However, we recognise the importance of providing consumers with information on a food’s production and its provenance to enable them to make informed choices about the food they buy. That is why we have been encouraging retailers to comply with the Food Standard Agency’s best practice guide on origin labelling, and recent evidence from the agency has shown that compliance has increased in recent years. More specifically, the Pig Meat Supply Chain Task Force which we established bringing together producers, processors, retailers, the food service industry, and a consumer representative has developed a voluntary industry code on the labelling of pork and pork products. This code, which was launched at the National Farmers Union conference last month, covers origin labelling, the use of breed names on labels and product definitions. Support from both the retail and food service sector has been strong.

Retailers are putting in place policies aimed at sourcing more domestically-produced food and drink products. This in turn provides opportunities for UK farmers to capture a greater market share by becoming more competitive.

We also appreciate the need to improve our food and drink producers’ access to market in order to meet the growing demand for more food with a regional provenance. We have done this by providing funding for a range of measures including “meet the buyer” events with retailers and the encouragement of food hubs and shared distribution facilities.