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Food Exports

Volume 575: debated on Thursday 13 February 2014

The 10 years to 2012 saw agri-food exports grow by 40% to £18.2 billion. Exports in the first 11 months of 2013 stood at £17.2 billion, compared with £16.6 billion at the same point in 2012. The Government and industry are working together to increase exports in the agri-food sector. We launched a refreshed action plan last October. It commits us to deliver £500 million of value to the UK economy by supporting 1,000 companies by October 2015.

I welcome the Minister’s answer. Ireland and France are currently our two largest export markets for food and non-alcoholic beverages. Which markets does he think will have the best growth prospects for producers in the United Kingdom, and indeed in my county of Staffordshire, in future?

Obviously the EU market will remain a very important one for UK producers. We work closely with the industry to identify key markets and prioritise negotiations, based on industry interest, projected value and achievability. Under the export action plan, our aim is to maintain access to existing markets and negotiate to open new priority markets for food and drink products in countries such as China, Russia, Brazil, the USA, Indonesia and India.

Tests in West Yorkshire found that more than a third of food samples were not what they claimed to be or had been mislabelled in some way, with ham on pizzas made with meat emulsion or meat slurry that had been dyed pink, cheese analogue used instead of cheese and additives used in flame retardants used in fruit juice. Does the Minister agree that such reports are incredibly damaging to our food exports and that we need to address the problem by having proper testing of food produced in this country?

I understand that the statistic the hon. Lady mentioned—that 30% of the samples were mislabelled—is a little misleading, because the samples looked at were based on intelligence and from areas where there was greater concern in the first place. Nevertheless, we take this very seriously, which is why we set up the review by Professor Chris Elliott. He has published his interim report, and we look forward to his final findings.