I see Yorkshire as vital to Britain’s future as a great food nation

Yorkshire is a great food county, unsurpassed anywhere in Britain for the quality and variety of the food and drink it produces.

Elizabeth Truss, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

I want to make sure this county is right where it deserves to be, at the forefront of an industry that is essential to the British economy and to our future growth.

The strength and depth of the industry in Yorkshire is shown by the diversity of superb businesses.

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They range from the sheep farmers of the North York Moors and the Dales to the vegetable growers of the East Riding; from one of the world’s biggest confectionery plants, Nestlé in York, to one of our most important shellfish ports, Bridlington; and from high-tech pig-breeders like JSR Genetics to craft drinks producers such as Masons Yorkshire Gin and the Ilkley Brewery.

It has six Michelin-starred restaurants, the shopping sophistication of Leeds and towns that are fantastic draws for food-lovers, such as Harrogate and Malton.

Altogether, Yorkshire has the greatest concentration of food and drink businesses in Britain. As someone who grew up in Yorkshire, I am a great enthusiast for the county’s wonderful food and drink.

I am delighted that some of its champions are closely involved in Great British Food, the worldwide campaign I launched last month.

To drive this forward, I am bringing together a group of around 40 pioneers who have been closely involved in Britain’s food and drink revolution. They include David Hartley of Wensleydale Creamery and Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, who used the county’s wonderful food and landscapes to lure the organisers of the Tour de France.

My ambition with Great British Food is to complete the job of transforming the image of our food and drink both here and around the world and banishing for good the negative stereotypes that still linger.

This will increase sales of British food and drink both here in the UK and internationally. That is important because this £100bn industry is a cornerstone of our economy. In manufacturing alone, it is worth more to the economy than cars and aerospace combined.

As part of Great British Food, Defra and UKTI experts will be working alongside businesses to grow exports and enter new markets. We will also be supporting the industry with the 25-year food and farming plan we are drawing up, and will be helping them treble the number of apprentices.

We are also supporting businesses through the creation of new Food Enterprise Zones, where planning rules are simplified to power the development of local food economies. I am delighted Malton will be one of the first.

Given Yorkshire’s wonderful heritage, I am keen to increase the number of the county’s distinctive products that enjoy the advantages of Protected Food Name status.

Those that already benefit include Yorkshire forced rhubarb, Swaledale cheese and Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese, which is already a great export success.

The beautiful Yorkshire countryside is part of the identity of these foods. Wensleydale is unthinkable without the lush grazing that flavours its milk. We recognised the importance of this landscape last month when we extended the Dales National Park by 188 square miles – nearly a quarter. My decision secures the future of this beautiful and valuable asset for Yorkshire and its rural economy.

Food and drink is central to the identity and economy of this county and I see Yorkshire as vital to Britain’s future as a great food nation.