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British Food Industry

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 12 May 2011

The Government take the British food industry extremely seriously. We have established the industry-led taskforce on farming regulation; we have also invested £13.6 million in collaborative research and agreed an action plan to increase fruit and vegetable production; and we will publish the groceries code adjudicator Bill shortly. Furthermore, on 26 January I wrote to all Departments setting out the Government’s commitment that, subject to no overall increase in costs, they will source only food that meets British or equivalent standards of production.

Nazeing village, in my constituency, is a UK centre for greenhouse farming, and that is especially true of the farm of Mr Franco Pullara. He is hoping to build a new plant to produce biogas, which will provide him with renewable heat and power, but the rules are a minefield. What further assistance can the Minister provide to support such farming projects, and will he meet Mr Pullara to discuss it?

I am very much aware of a number of growers in my hon. Friend’s constituency who are pre-eminent in glasshouse production, and I would be very happy to meet this particular constituent. My hon. Friend is aware that the Department of Energy and Climate Change is undertaking a review of the feed-in tariffs for biogas production. Obviously we will have to await the outcome of that, but I hope that we can remove any other barriers to enable his constituent’s development to take place.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation forecast last month that global food production will have to rise by 70% by 2050, and that goes alongside the twin challenges for government of reducing agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions and ending food waste, which costs British families an estimated £5 billion a year. Why then, four months after the publication of the foresight report, have the Government produced no plan to increase sustainable food production? Was the president of the National Farmers Union not right to indicate that a Department without a plan for food means a Government without a grip on the vital issue of food security?

That is a bit rich, given that the Labour Government spent 13 years running down our agricultural industry so that we now have to import to cover half our needs—that is the result of their policies. Of course we are developing our own proposals. The foresight report was produced under this Government and we stand by it. It is a very comprehensive report and we will, of course, be responding to it with a series of proposals to put British agriculture back where it belongs—back on its feet.