“My priorities are clear: to increase growth while improving the environment. In 2013 I will help to boost UK food exports, create growth through innovation, and continue supporting British farming.
“Exports are key to supporting our food industry in the future. The reason that British food is becoming increasingly popular abroad is our high quality standards, the traceability of our products and our world-class ingredients. We need to maintain these rigorously. However, there is more to do. I am working with foreign governments to increase the number of countries we export to.
Huge new market
“Russia has just lifted its ban on the import of British beef and lamb, opening up a huge new market worth potentially £80M over the next three years. I know that confusing and lengthy paperwork can put people off selling in some markets; I am working to make this process easier to help SMEs [small to medium-sized enterprises] sell their produce abroad, support local communities and bolster the national economy.
“I believe innovation has a key role to play in industry growth. We need to be able to translate the £400M of government-funded food technology research and development into new products, processes and technologies.
“We have the potential to be at the forefront of developing innovative solutions to make fuller use of our agri-science base. The Agri-Tech Strategy we are currently developing with the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills will build on the world-leading scientific expertise in the UK. This will help us tackle the challenges ahead, as well as contributing significantly to economic growth.
“I will continue to support our farming industry and work to overcome one of its biggest threats: Bovine TB. Last year, TB led to the slaughter of 26,000 cattle at a cost of nearly £100M – a cost that will rise to £1bn over the next decade if this disease is left unchecked. Bovine TB imposes a shattering financial and emotional cost on our farmers, their families and communities.
“We are continuing to spend £58M on research into vaccines and are lobbying the EU to permit the use of cattle vaccines. We need healthy wildlife living alongside healthy cattle and have to use every tool at our disposal. That’s why I’m committed to delivering the badger cull pilots next summer.
“Increasing growth while improving our environment is not easy. By working together and listening to each other, we can sell more produce abroad while creating a robust food industry at home.”