Food and farming: an economic powerhouse

25 November 2014

This government has focused relentlessly on improving Britain’s international competitiveness and the food and farming industry, which employs one in eight workers and is a powerhouse of the economy, is central to our progress. From field to fork, the food chain is worth £100 billion.

Like all businesses, food and farming companies are benefiting from what we have done to fix the economy. We’ve brought the public finances under control while helping business with reforms like cutting corporation tax, which from next April will drop to 20 per cent.

Our plan is showing results. The economy is growing at 3 per cent and has passed its 2008 pre-recession peak. We have risen up the league for international competitiveness as measured by the World Economic Forum, from 13 to 9 since 2010.

Nowhere in Europe is better placed than we are to raise our eyes to the wider world, to compete with – and learn from – countries like China, India, Brazil and Singapore.

I want our food and farming to lead the world and the government has been helping by signing international agreements to open some 600 markets since 2010.

It is an exciting industry that can attract the brightest young people, it is not just hairnets and muddy boots. But food and farming is also one of our most heavily regulated industries, with thousands of rules covering everything from safety to the environment. We need to ask in a clear-headed way which of them are damaging competitiveness while doing little for the environment, the consumer or anyone else.

Earlier this month I was making the case for reform with the new Commissioners in Brussels, where 80 per cent of environmental laws come from, not to mention the thicket of rules growing out of the Common Agricultural Policy.

We can help, but the industry itself is taking the lead.

Many of our farmers are already world-beaters. We grow wheat more competitively than the Canadian prairies, while technological advances mean that even in November we can buy delicious home-grown strawberries.

I’m confident that all things being equal, British food is a world-beater; it is our job to make reforms to power it forward, not hold it back.

Elizabeth Truss is Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Article taken from the brochure of Reform’s 2014 Chairman’s Dinner.

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