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British Food Producers

Volume 677: debated on Thursday 25 June 2020

We are promoting British food and drink producers at home and abroad. Just this week, we announced a package of trade and investment measures to help food and drink businesses grow their overseas trade, which includes reinforcing DEFRA’s Food is GREAT campaign and promoting 50 food and drink export champions. We are also supporting domestic campaigns such as the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and Dairy UK’s £1 million promotional campaign for milk.

As the Secretary of State will know, Cheshire is not just renowned for its crumbly cheese. Our new potatoes are on the menu at the world’s finest restaurants, and our salt is being used by chefs all over the world to add flavour to fine food. We also have some of the finest farmers’ markets selling food prepared locally to my constituents in Warrington. What plans does my right hon. Friend have to support farmers and food producers in my constituency to navigate the challenging set of market conditions created by covid-19?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. His part of Cheshire is famous for its food, particularly its cheese, but also salt and new potatoes. Many parts of our country are renowned for their high-quality local produce, and we want to support farmers to promote that and add value.

May I push the Secretary of State on this? Does he agree that the future of British agriculture and the British food industry has to be based on quality and shorter supply chains as we come out of this pandemic? Will he join me in calling for an investigation into what is happening in our meat processing plants? Some of them look rather strange. In the four that I have looked at, many of the workers are reluctant to take a test because they would lose money and be isolated. That is a real problem. Could he look into it?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that this country has built a proud record based on the quality of our food and food provenance in particular, and we will maintain that. On the specific point that he raises about outbreaks of coronavirus at three meat plants, we are looking at that and have been investigating the causes of it. We suspect, as I said earlier, that it is linked either to shared transport or canteen areas, and new guidance will be issued to those meat plants.