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Food and Drink Exports

Volume 591: debated on Thursday 29 January 2015

9. What assessment she has made of successful strategies by UK food and drink businesses to export their products in the last 12 months. (907295)

Food and drink is our largest manufacturing industry. The chain contributes more than £100 billion to the economy every year. Since 2010, we have supported 2,500 firms to get their produce into supermarkets, restaurants and pubs across the world. We now trade with more than 150 countries, selling wine and cheese to France, tea to China and chillies to Pakistan.

I am proud to have a meat producer in my constituency that makes chorizo sausage that it sells to Spain. Will the Secretary of State and the Department continue to work closely with all local food producers to get their products into supermarkets and new markets around the world?

I am delighted to hear about the chorizo. I look forward to coming to my hon. Friend’s constituency to sample it. I want people to buy and sell more British food here in Britain and overseas. That is why we produced the Bonfield report about public sector procurement. I have talked to the supermarkets about ensuring that they have good British labelling, so that we get British products into our supermarkets where possible. Strawberries are a huge success, with two-thirds of the strawberries sold in supermarkets being British. We are doing more to promote food and drink overseas through our food and drink export plan.

May I commend the Department and our embassies abroad for their work in expanding our exports? We also need to ensure that there is continuing access to markets abroad. What steps are being taken to ensure that the South African authorities accept regionalisation in the export health certificate for poultry, so that exports can resume following the outbreak of avian influenza in Nafferton?

Some exports were affected by the avian flu outbreak. We took action as swiftly as possible, and we had a Government vet on the premises on the day to ensure that we dealt with the situation. We are working with countries such as South Africa to open those markets as rapidly as possible.

The Secretary of State will be aware that there are now some 448 commercial vineyards in the United Kingdom, producing 4.5 million bottles of excellent wine a year, with méthode champenoise in particular renowned around the world. Is she aware that the UK pays two thirds of all the duty paid on wine in the EU—an average of £2.05 a bottle? Given the additional costs of producing wine in the UK, will she speak to the Chancellor about achieving a fairer tax treatment of this great British refresher?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. Our exports of wine have now exceeded £100 million for the first time, and we are exporting to France and Australia. I will certainly discuss the issue with the Chancellor.