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Mr Speaker, I apologise for being a little late. I was at the Gulfood exhibition in the Gulf and my plane was sadly stranded because of fog.
The Government want the UK to grow and sell more British food and drink. Through the introduction of a new plan for Government procurement, we have sought to enable Departments to source more local food, and recent successes include the Ministry of Justice implementing the plan in prisons. Last year, exports of food and drink increased by 9% to £20 billion.
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. The quality heritage of our local food, such as Sussex Charmer and all the great wines produced in the South Downs, is second to none. That is why we have set up the great British food unit—to promote our food at home and abroad. It is also why I have just returned—late, sadly—from Gulfood, the world’s largest annual trade fair.
I remind the Minister that we do not want food at any price. As we have heard this morning, another seven species are in danger in our country because of intensive farming. When will we have good, productive, sustainable farming and start importing less?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. As we design domestic agriculture policy after leaving the EU, we will be looking to ensure we have sustainable farming, so that we get the benefits of farming sustainably, while improving productivity.
My hon. Friend makes an incredibly important point. Wight Marque celebrates the Isle of Wight’s brilliant range of food, from locally produced milk to a vast array of fruit and veg. It is a great example of how a little public money and the support of partners can really celebrate the provenance of our local food.
Farmers are facing a critical shortage of seasonal labour, and some are afraid that our food will rot in the ground this year. The Government have been asked to reverse their decision to scrap the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, and Ministers say that they are reviewing the issue, but can a decision please be made as a matter of urgency?
While we remain members of the EU, we still have free movement and fruit farms and farmers can still source their labour from countries such as Romania and Bulgaria. We are aware that some have raised concerns about agricultural labour after we leave the EU, and we are listening carefully to their representations.
As my hon. Friend is aware, the Government have a manifesto commitment to place a stronger recognition of animal welfare issues in the design of future agriculture policy and to promote higher standards of animal welfare in international trade deals. We intend to implement those manifesto commitments.
Yesterday during a session of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, we heard evidence from Gary Mitchell of National Farmers Union Scotland, and two things were made very clear: that access to migrant labour for seasonal work is essential for our agriculture sector and that the Government are yet to the respond to the representations made by NFU Scotland over these concerns. Will the Minister commit to looking into this and providing an urgent clarification to the agriculture industry on where they stand on migrant labour?
The hon. Lady can now breathe.
I have regular meetings with NFU Scotland. Earlier this year, we had a meeting and engaged on a wide range of issues pertinent to future agriculture policy in Scotland, including labour.