HC Deb 23 March 1995 vol 257 cc470-1
3. Mrs. Lait

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he has taken to improve the processing and marketing grant schemes. [13876]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Michael Jack)

Outstanding interest has been shown in the new scheme since its launch last October, and waiting times for grant applications have been halved.

Mrs. Lait

Is my hon. Friend aware that the fruit industry is important in Hastings and Rye? Is he further aware that, however much we have helped that sector with the new grants, it is still being undercut by imports from abroad? What action is my hon. Friend taking to ensure that there is a fair market? What further steps is he taking to provide variety in the agri-food industry?

Mr. Jack

Ten of the projects that made successful applications were from the fruit and vegetable sector. The thrust of the processing and marketing grant scheme is to try to improve the efficiency of the fruit and vegetable industry. The scheme provides an opportunity to provide the primary producer with great rewards and to improve the marketing and competitiveness of British-produced fruit and vegetables, thus achieving the effect that my hon. Friend seeks.

Mr. Simpson

What success has the Minister had in encouraging United Kingdom meat processing to replace the export of livestock? How would he set about offsetting the UK's poor performance in promoting its own produce in comparison with New Zealand and Denmark?

Mr. Jack

The hon. Gentleman asks an interesting question. So far, out of the 22 projects that have qualified for £4.7 million under the scheme, seven are from the meat processing industry. The improved meat quality, improved hygiene and improved butchery standards are some of the criteria that have enabled those seven projects to gain that form of help. That backs up some of the excellent work that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is currently doing to encourage the marketing of home-produced veal.