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Pork Exports

Volume 591: debated on Thursday 29 January 2015

2. What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills on promoting pork exports. (907285)

I discussed this issue early this week with my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary. Since 2010, we have opened 600 new overseas markets and UK pork exports reached £309 million in 2013, up 26% from 2010. I am committed to boosting this even further and we made major progress on my recent visit to China.

As my right hon. Friend rightly says, and as regular watchers of “Have I Got News for You” know, she has recently been to China. Lincolnshire has first-class pig farmers. Will she update the House on her discussions in China to open up that market to my pig farmers?

It was fantastic to have representatives from major pork companies, such as Tulip, which has a plant in my hon. and learned Friend’s constituency, and from Cranswick, which sells great Norfolk pork, on my visit to China. We made progress on inward inspections—getting items such as trotters approved, which will open up more produce in this country—and we were also able to announce the appointment of our first ever food and agriculture counsellor, based in Beijing, Karen Morgan, which will help to drive further business. This is vitally important, because China will be the biggest importer of food by 2018.

According to the Soil Association, which is based in Bristol, in the past four years Dutch farmers have reduced antibiotic use by 58%, which means that British pig farmers now use more than three times more antibiotics than their Dutch counterparts. Would it not make our exports more attractive to overseas markets if we were to follow the Dutch example and set a similar 50% target for reducing UK farm antibiotic use?

I know that British farmers are working on that. This country has very competitive pork producers, who are expanding markets overseas, and it is vital for the health of our agriculture industry.

I applaud the efforts of the Secretary of State to boost the sale of pigs trotters from Karro at the Malton bacon factory. Will she use her recent visit to China to expand dairy exports to help boost dairy production in this country?

My hon. Friend is right; there are huge opportunities for dairy in China. Chinese consumers currently consume a third of the dairy products that we consume in Europe, but that is expanding rapidly and the present generation of Chinese children are eating a lot of dairy products. UK products are particularly well respected and I took representatives of dairy companies, including Somerdale cheese, out with me. I want to see more companies out there and we are doing all we can to help the industry get its products into the Chinese markets.

The Chair of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Miss McIntosh) has ingeniously invented the concept of dairy pork. We are grateful to her for doing so.

Pork exports have shown the way to opening new markets—cheese being a good example of that too. We could do more still at home with public procurement, which would help pork producers and especially our milk producers.

I thank my right hon. Friend for all the work she did in this area when she was Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We launched the Bonfield report last summer, which is all about making it easier for our schools and hospitals to buy British. It opens up £400 million- worth of new markets for our farmers, and by 2017 all Government Departments are committed to sourcing locally. Of course, DEFRA has led the way: we now serve British bacon in our canteen, rather than the Danish bacon that used to be served.

In her discussions with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, was the right hon. Lady able to raise the issue of the supermarket adjudicator and her need to have powers to impose fines, and to extend her remit throughout the entire length of the food chain, rather than just between the last producer and the supermarket?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point. I work closely with BIS on this issue, and I am pleased to say that last night we laid the statutory instrument that will give the Groceries Code Adjudicator the power to fine companies.