HC Deb 14 December 1995 vol 268 cc1084-5
3. Mrs. Lait

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to promote British regional speciality foods. [4129]

The Minister for Food (Mrs. Angela Browning)

As the Minister in the Department responsible for small businesses, I am especially concerned to assist this dynamic and growing sector of the food industry. We continue to support Food from Britain, which is broadening its active support for marketing groups and for individual businesses.

Mrs. Lait

I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful answer. Is she aware that France's wonderful regional products are supported by forms of producer co-operatives? In my constituency, we have wonderful lamb from the Romney marshes, superb fish from the sea, and great cheeses and fruit. Can my hon. Friend assure me that we will have more publicity and help for regional speciality food groups?

Mrs. Browning

Indeed, the regional food groups have been very successful in bringing together many smaller groups and individual businesses. We already have the well-established Taste of the West, Taste of Anglia and North West Fine Foods. My hon. Friend will be especially interested to know that, in January, two more groups will be launched—Middle England Fine Foods and Taste of the South East.

Mr. Martyn Jones

Is not it true, however, that British food is not being supported enough? We have a huge deficit of £6 billion in temperate foods that we could grow in this country. If we put some money into Food from Britain, instead of cutting back, and supported our farmers as the French do, we would have a real advantage in selling our food abroad.

Mrs. Browning

I meet Food from Britain regularly and I frequently go abroad to support that organisation and British companies that are exporting quality, speciality British foods with great success. It is interesting that that particular sector of the food industry—speciality foods and small food companies—employs 20 per cent. of the work force employed in the food industry.

Sir Jim Spicer

My hon. Friend has rightly mentioned Taste of the West. Does she agree that the success and the value added to all those products rests upon people such as George and Amanda Streatfeild—whom she knows—of Denhay Farms, who play such a remarkably virile role in Taste of the West?

Mrs. Browning

Indeed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who are they?"' I shall tell hon. Members who they are. They are farmers, a husband and wife team in Dorset, whom I have met. They have exhibited at many national and international exhibitions. Among their many excellent products, they produce air-dried ham, which the Italians think they are best at, but the Streatfeilds have beaten them to it in many awards.

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