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Brexit (Food and Drink Exports)

Volume 638: debated on Thursday 29 March 2018

1. What assessment he has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on food and drink exports. (904655)

In 2017 the UK exported more than £22 billion-worth of food and drink products to the world, an increase of almost 10% on the previous year. When we leave the European Union, as we will exactly one year today, we will free UK farmers from the constraints of the common agricultural policy and provide huge opportunities for Scottish businesses in emerging markets, where demand for quality produce is high.

Despite the brave words of the Secretary of State, he knows as well as we all do that the Scottish fresh food industry is in crisis because there is nobody to pick the fruit—his Government’s policies are deterring people from coming to Scotland to work. Can he give us just one example of a country anywhere in the world that has given a guarantee that, after we leave the European Union, Scottish food exports will be treated in exactly the same way as they are in the European Union’s market of half a billion people? Just one example, please.

For produce such as salmon, our exports are almost exactly 50% European Union and 50% non-European Union. Salmon exports to Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam are up 63% in the past year.

Weetabix, the great British breakfast cereal made in Burton Latimer near Kettering, gets all its wheat from farmers within a 50-mile radius. It was a famous British brand even before we joined the EU, and it will remain a famous British brand after we leave the EU. Will not the prospects for exporting more Weetabix be enhanced once we leave?

Our exports are largely determined by the growth of markets, and the International Monetary Fund says that 90% of global growth in the next 10 to 15 years will be outside the European continent. That is where the big possibilities for UK exporters are, including in food and drink.

The Minister’s colleagues are fond of talking about pork markets in China, but I urge him to pay attention to the potential pulses market there. The British Edible Pulses Association is keen to export faba beans to China, but the Department for International Trade is not talking to the BEPA at the moment. The Chinese want these beans, but there are some technical obstacles. I urge the Minister to respond to the correspondence and let us get this pulses market moving.

I am keen to ensure that that market is fully exploited. If the hon. Lady wants the representatives to speak directly to one of our Ministers, we would be happy to speak to them to see whether there are any technical impediments that can be swept away.

To get more people around the world to understand that high-quality British produce is a world beater.