Food Exports

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 15th May 2003.

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Photo of Mr Tom Cox Mr Tom Cox Labour, Tooting 11:30 am, 15th May 2003

What the value was of food exported from the UK to member states of the European Union in the last year for which figures are available.

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

During 2002, the value of food, feed and drink exported from the UK to member states of the European Union was £5.6 billion.

Photo of Mr Tom Cox Mr Tom Cox Labour, Tooting

I note that reply and I thank my right hon. Friend for it very much. It indicates the enormous value to this country of our many excellent producers, who produce a wide range of food commodities that sell well in EU countries. As the EU will very shortly have 10 new member states, many of which produce food, many of us feel that we are under very unfair conditions. Can she assure the House that British producers, who have worked so hard to establish those markets in the EU, will not be squeezed out by unfair competition from new member states?

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I can certainly tell my hon. Friend that even at present the existing member states of the European Union export more to new members joining the European Union than vice versa. That is particularly the case with regard to high-value-added products and quality products. I certainly agree that this country has many excellent producers of food and drink of very high quality, which clearly gives us the market edge in the new member states. I anticipate that that will continue and I look forward to it doing so.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

What proportion does meat on the hoof rather than on the hook represent of the food exported from this country? Is the Secretary of State satisfied that when that product is branded and sold overseas it is sold as British products, and that British lamb, for example, is not sold in France as French lamb?

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I do not have with me figures for the proportion on the hoof rather than on the hook, although the hon. Gentleman will know that, in common with most Members, we would prefer all such exports to be on the hook. I am not aware of such exports being rebranded. If he has cause for concern in that respect, I would be grateful if he would let us know, as we will look into it.