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Our high food standards can be championed without a low-standard import ban

A ban on low-standard imports may not be possible, but there are still plenty of ways our local produce can be championed, says Janet Finch-Saunders, Welsh Conservative Shadow Rural Affairs Minister.

With the Agriculture Bill nearing its final stages in the Houses of Parliament, I think it fair to say this post-Brexit legislation has certainly captured the public’s attention.

 

There is no denying it, the message that imported food should meet domestic standards from January 1 has been loud and clear.

 

Due to the Bill containing provisions that fall within the legislative competence of the Welsh Parliament, numerous legislative consent memorandums came before us for scrutiny.

 

Last month, a motion was tabled proposing the Welsh Parliament agree that provisions in the Bill, in so far as they fall within the legislative competence of the Welsh Parliament, should be considered by the UK Parliament.

 

There was not a single objection by any party. The motion was agreed.

 

Highlighted

 

I spoke during the debate, and highlighted some of the benefits of vital importance to the future of farming in Wales, including the red meat levy and enabling of Welsh Ministers to continue direct payments and make a declaration of intervention should there be exceptional market conditions.

 

I also took the opportunity to address concerns about food standards.

 

As you will no doubt have already heard, some of the reasons why the amendments could not be agreed included the fact we already have robust processes, bodies and systems in place to protect our standards; they would create a potentially vast set of conditions applicable to imports under trade agreements that do not apply under any agreement the UK or EU has today; and of course the fact that the UK Government has made an unequivocal commitment not to compromise on our high standards in all our trade negotiations.

 

Natural

 

Clearly, as a Welsh Conservative politician, some may think it easy and only natural for me to have faith in the promise made in the Conservative manifesto, and to trust the repeated commitments made.

 

However, while bearing in mind that EU rules banning imports of chlorine-washed chicken and other products will be automatically written into UK law once the post-Brexit transition period ends on December 31, I wish to go further.

 

As I made clear in my speech, there are steps we can and should explore to champion our great Welsh food standards and ensure the public can even more easily back local products. For example, we need:

  • A clear and explicit target as to when the shelf-life of Welsh lamb will be improved so it can better compete with New Zealand on the global stage;
  • To maximize the level of Welsh produce being procured for use in our hospitals, schools and government offices;
  • An introduction of a Local Food Charter which all shops, cafés, and restaurants selling food local to the area could sign up to, helping consumers know which businesses are supporting local or Welsh food producers;
  • To explore expanding the mandatory food hygiene rating scheme for Wales so consumers not only choose where to eat out or shop for food based on information about hygiene standards, but the business’s commitment to supporting and using local/Welsh/UK produce;
  • A plan to make the most of the fact that as a consequence of Brexit we will have a greater ability to consider altering food labelling practices in Wales. Personally, I am looking into how we could develop labels so they more clearly inform consumers of food origin and standards;
  • To support legislation laid in Parliament last week setting out new rules and logos to protect British food and drink.

I hope that my actions reflect the fact that I am trying to pursue and develop policy proposals that reflect the undeniable interest in public food standards and championing local produce.

 

Janet can be found tweeting at @JFinchSaunders


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