HC Deb 01 February 1996 vol 270 cc1114-5
10. Mr. Riddick

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the recent export performance of the United Kingdom food industry. [11274]

Mrs. Browning

The export performance of our food and drink industry remains buoyant. The latest figures available, for the 12 months ending October 1995, show a rise of some 10 per cent. compared with 1994.

Mr. Riddick

Is my hon. Friend aware that a recent survey showed that British chocolate is more popular on the continent than is continental chocolate? Is she aware that Glenys Kinnock MEP said at a recent inter-group meeting that vegetable fat should not be incorporated in chocolate? Is not vegetable fat the very thing that makes British chocolate unique? Is it not the case that, whether it be chocolate manufacturers or airlines, the Kinnocks are not exactly doing British companies any favours?

Mrs. Browning

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The British chocolate and confectionery industry is one of which we can all be rightly proud in terms of home sales and exports. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister has outlined to the House the representations that he is making in defence of British chocolate. I had a meeting with Commissioner Kinnock a few months ago at which he assured me that he would bat for Britain. From the report that my hon. Friend has mentioned, it sounds as though there is trouble with her indoors.

Mr. Foulkes

Recognising the importance of potatoes to our food export industry, will the Minister gather information about Girvan Early Growers, an effective and efficient co-operative for growing and marketing potatoes, which had a turnover of £1 million last year? The co-operative was set up by six farmers in and around Girvan in my constituency. Will she use that information to encourage similar co-operatives to boost potato production in the whole of the UK?

Mrs. Browning

The hon. Gentleman draws attention to his constituency just as British producers are working in co-operatives to ensure that they are growing what the customer wants. I commend them, and I shall encourage others to follow that example.