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Twenty-five-year Food and Farming Plan

Volume 617: debated on Thursday 24 November 2016

We remain committed to publishing a 25-year food and farming plan. However, the context has changed significantly following the decision to leave the EU, which creates many new opportunities to do things differently and better. We will therefore develop the 25-year food and farming plan alongside our plans for leaving the EU, and we will consult with both industry and the public.

I thank the Minister for that response, which fills me with concern. I hope that he will bring the report forward as soon as possible, given that the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recommended that it be published in April this year. Can he give me some indication of when we will see this important report?

The hon. Lady is wrong to be concerned, because as I have made clear, we are committed to publishing the plan. It is a manifesto commitment. There was no commitment to publish it in April; there is a commitment to do so in this Parliament, and as I have said, the context has changed significantly. It is right to develop the plan alongside our plan to leave the European Union, so that it bears relevance to the context.

The great British breakfast cereal Weetabix is made in Burton Latimer in the Kettering constituency, and the wheat for Weetabix is grown on farms within a 50-mile radius. What proportion of the nation’s food do we grow ourselves, and what proportion would the Minister like us to grow ourselves?

With regard to the food that we can produce in this country, my hon. Friend will be aware that we produce around 74% of what we consume. If we include foods that we are unable to grow here, the percentage is slightly lower. We have a commitment to having a vibrant, profitable farming industry. We want to grow more, sell more and import less, and if we achieve all that, our self-sufficiency will improve over time.

Given the impact that Brexit will inevitably have on the 25-year food and farming plan, which has yet to be published, what discussions will the Minister have with the Northern Ireland Executive about how the plan will accommodate Brexit, particularly when it comes to agricultural exports, on which we rely for the development of our economy, as he will realise?

I have already had meetings with Michelle McIlveen, and I recently visited Northern Ireland, where I met the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association and spoke at its dinner, so I am already in close engagement with the Northern Ireland Executive, and indeed the Northern Ireland industry, on these issues.

13. The Wight Marque scheme, which is supported by partners Red Funnel, Taste of the Wight and the Isle of Wight County Press, is doing great work to promote truly local produce. This is an example of a small amount of money doing a lot of good for a growing and important part of the island’s economy. What steps are the Government taking to highlight the benefits that such schemes have in rural areas? (907468)

My hon. Friend makes an important point. The Wight Marque, which the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’s rural development programme helped to establish, celebrates the Isle of Wight’s brilliant food culture by accrediting local produce. DEFRA fully supports accreditation schemes. They are an opportunity to showcase local and sustainable food, they can make a real contribution to local economies, and they are completely in line with DEFRA’s approach to strengthening our brand.