Peter Aldous calls on the Government ensure the right financial support is in place to increase food and drink processing capacity so that the UK can take advantage of the significant opportunities to increase British agricultural exports.
Our food and drink sector is vital to our economy. In 2019, exports increased by nearly 5% to £23.7 billion. We want to see that success continue and will shortly be launching a bounce back strategy for the industry as the world recovers from covid-19.
I am grateful for that answer. I draw your attention, Mr Speaker, to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. There are significant opportunities to increase agricultural exports, but for the UK to make the most of them, there is a need to dramatically increase food and drink processing capacity. What discussions has my hon. Friend’s Department had with the Treasury, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, so as to ensure that the right fiscal and grant arrangements are in place?
My hon. Friend is right to raise that important issue. My Department is working closely with DEFRA, BEIS and Her Majesty’s Treasury to understand the market and investment trends in the agriculture and food processing sector in a post-covid environment. The Department for International Trade’s high potential opportunity—HPO—programme, which is part of our levelling-up agenda, is already attracting investment in food and drink programmes throughout the UK. For instance, there is agricultural engineering in Telford and aquaculture in Dorset. However, we want to do more, which is why, in partnership across Government and as part of our forthcoming export strategy, we will work to identify new investment opportunities in the sector and its supply chain, so that UK agriculture’s full potential can be realised internationally.
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