Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Speaking up for Cornwall's Farmers

Congratulations to the Chairman of the Truro Primestock Show Jonathan McCulloch and the great team of volunteers who organize this annual treat. I was so sad to miss this very special occasion as I had to be in Parliament.

The Fat Stock Show is a great opportunity to bring people of all ages closer to the farming community that surrounds us in west Cornwall. Supporting the growing and producing of more food in our country are important aims for me. In this part of Cornwall we have high quality food and drinks producers who quite rightly pride themselves on buying as many of their ingredients as possible from local farmers. 

I am very proud to represent the home of Rowes pasties and baked goods, a company that not only uses local ingredients but exports that quality taste of Cornwall all over the country with its hard won contracts with leading supermarkets.

I am equally proud to represent the home of Healey’s and Skinners as well as a host of farmers and food producers from asparagus and strawberry growers to sausage makers, chocolatiers and bakers. No one is immune for the current difficult economic situation and I think it is more important than ever to support local businesses – including our farmers and food producers.

I regularly meet with the local National Farmers Union and their members and a consistent complaint is the cost of regulations imposed upon them by the EU in Brussels. Even more annoying is when the UK goes ahead and implements EU directives that have large costs for the producers and other EU countries don’t. British farmers are then at a competitive disadvantage. Also as British farming tends to have much higher standards of animal welfare, I get very annoyed that cheaper EU imports make their way into the food we eat from producers that are using methods that do not have animal welfare at their heart.

Some time ago I met with a local egg producer who told me about just such a situation. He has invested a great deal of money to meet new EU laying hen welfare standards. Thirteen other EU countries, including Spain, Italy and Poland have ignored the new rules. Of course his eggs will be more expensive as a result and I shared his concern that the UK would be flooded with cheap EU eggs.  At the moment we are relatively self-sufficient in eggs, over eighty five percent of the eleven billion eggs consumed in the UK every year coming from British farms.

I have taken up this issue with the Minister for Farming Jim Paice and was pleased with the progress he has made in protecting our local egg producers. The Government has secured an agreement with the British Retail Consortium, which covers a huge range of businesses including Tesco, MacDonalds and Starbucks. The agreement guarantees that conventional caged eggs from non-compliant EU countries will not be bought by the major retailers or used as ingredients in their own brand products. Rigorous checks on EU eggs coming into the UK will also be imposed, checks which will detect eggs produced in non-compliant countries. 

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