The Environment Secretary has challenged the region to turn its immense local pride into producing more high quality and innovative food products to meet the demand from growing markets overseas.
On a tour of West Yorkshire businesses yesterday, Elizabeth Truss called in at The Yorkshire Post and while she spoke glowingly of the region’s farming and food industry, she said there were real economic opportunities the industry should strive to take.
She was keen to see more food producers apply for Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status to add value to their products and attract the attentions of foreign food buyers who are keen to buy into Britain’s heritage. She also said she would welcome bids to set up Food Enterprise Zones in Yorkshire after the first 11 such zones were confirmed elsewhere country last week.
Addressing a range of issues, Leeds-raised Miss Truss said the government was speaking with banks to ensure they understood the financial issues facing hard-pressed dairy farmers, currently troubled by low farm gate milk prices.
“The reality is, on dairy, there is a positive long-term future,” Miss Truss said.
“I have been over to China recently, I saw the demand for dairy growing rapidly and what people there want is really high quality British products. Yorkshire has some fantastic products. Wensleydale Cheese is known across the world; it has got the special protective status, and what we need to see in this country - and what we’re working on with the industry, with organisations like the NFU - is developing the markets of products so that we have products that are known for the landscape of Yorkshire in the case of Wensleydale, also things like butter and yoghurts because at the moment we import a lot of butter and yoghurt into this country, whereas in fact we produce some of the best butter and yoghurt in the world.”
Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese, Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb and both Swaledale Cheese and Swaledale Ewes Cheese have special PDO status after applications to the EU’s Protected Food Name scheme, and Miss Truss pressed home the opportunities opening up for food producers.
“I think there are fantastic opportunities for regional and more local marketing so for example products that are specific to Yorkshire. There is huge pride in this county and by having more Yorkshire specific products, by getting more PDOs signed up, people can buy products that are very local to them and local to the landscape.”
Her department recently announced 11 new Food Enterprise Zones across the country, including three in Lincolnshire.
The zones give Local Enterprise Partnerships, in partnership with local councils, the chance to apply for a relaxation of bureaucratic red tape for specific locations in order to attract new food businesses.
“I would love to see Food Enterprise Zones in Yorkshire,” Miss Truss said.
“I think this is a fantastic food county, it is one of the leading food counties in Britain, it has some of the best products and I would love to see more PDOs here too - I think there’s room for many more.”
The Norfolk MP’s visit to the area also took in Associated Waste Management in Leeds, Castleford-based Cryer & Stott Cheesemongers and the Rhubarb Triangle Farm Shop in Carlton near Wakefield.
Rhubarb will not crumble
Growers of Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb fear climate change is damaging their yields.
Eleven commercial growers are left in the Rhubarb Triangle between Leeds, Morley and Wakefield, amid fears for the crop’s commercial viability.
Miss Truss, who visited the area yesterday, said she thinks rhubarb has a bright future with signficiant investment being made into agricultural research, adding: “I want to make it clear how vital food and farming is to our economy - both speciality products like rhubarb and also our major manufacturing ventures, whether that’s Nestlé based at York selling chocolate bars around the world.”