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Food Producers: Overseas Marketing

Volume 662: debated on Thursday 20 June 2019

2. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for International Trade on (a) promoting and (b) supporting UK food producers in marketing their produce overseas. (911452)

I met with the Secretary of State for International Trade yesterday, and he told me that he had just come back from Turkey, where he had been exploring opportunities for British trade, including in food and drink. On Monday, I signed an agreement with China which means that British beef could be back on Chinese dinner plates by the end of the year, which could be worth £230 million over five years to our world-class beef producers. Those are just two examples of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for International Trade working closely to raise the international profile and reputation of the UK’s high-quality food and drink products, to open new markets, and to boost our exports.

I am grateful to the Minister for that timely answer. How successful has the GREAT campaign been at showcasing UK produce to markets around the world?

It has been great, as it says on the can. DEFRA’s “Food is GREAT” campaign supports DIT’s trade promotion activity, including at trade shows and meet-the-buyer events. It helps businesses to succeed in overseas markets by ensuring global recognition of UK excellence in food and drink, while encouraging our food and drink companies to export more.

This just shows what a barmy army we have on the Government Front Bench. To want more beef to be produced and shipped thousands of miles to China shows that they have not learned the lessons of sustainability or climate change danger. They had better learn those lessons quickly and do something to save our planet.

As a former Shipping Minister, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that 30% of containers go back to China empty, so there is tremendous potential for shipping goods to China without increasing our carbon footprint.

British breakfast cereals are among the best in the world and none is finer than Weetabix, which is based in the Kettering constituency and which sources its wheat from farms within a 50-mile radius of the factory. Will my right hon. Friend be the great British breakfast champion?

I am a great fan of Weetabix, not least because I am a wheat producer myself. Indeed, I have driven past the Weetabix factory in his constituency with my hon. Friend, and I quite fancy going to visit when my diary allows.

At the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that the EU would continue to protect UK protected geographical indications because they are European law. That seems to be incorrect. Was he mistaken, or did someone mislead him? Will he now put the record straight?

Geographical indications are important not only for producers but so that consumers know they are getting the real thing. It is important that we get that protection in our negotiations with the EU through the implementation period while, at the same time, talking to other trading partners around the world who may have different systems. We need to ensure that those systems dovetail closely with ours.

On a recent visit to seafood companies in the Grimsby and Cleethorpes area, the American ambassador encouraged Young’s Seafood to export even more to the United States. What assistance can the Department give?

We are keen to export seafood around the world. Brown crab from my constituency is exported to China, whelks are exported to South Korea, and I hope that the Americans will enjoy even more of our seafood and other products when we leave the EU and can negotiate trade agreements around the world.

I want to press the Minister on geographical indications, which are vital in our marketing of goods and products made across the country. In the event of a no deal, about which the frontrunner in the Tory leadership contest seems quite keen, protections for Cornish pasties, Buxton blue cheese, traditional Welsh perry, Cornish clotted cream and Whitstable oysters, to name but a few, will be at risk. What steps is DEFRA taking to ensure that those vital goods produced by our farmers and growers are protected come Halloween this year?

In a no-deal situation, we would wish to set up our own scheme and to negotiate with our friends across the channel to ensure some degree of co-operation, but I stress that no deal is not an option I would want to support. We need to get a deal, and we need to get it over the line. If, like me, Opposition Members had voted for the deal on the three occasions it came before the House, we would have left the European Union on 29 March and we would be in a much better situation for UK producers.