MPs quizzed Ministers about a lack of British lamb in supermarkets, halal and kosher labelling, glyphosate, Brexit and more this morning.
We summarise the highlights of the last Defra Parliamentary Questions before the election.
British Easter lamb in supermarkets
Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee, Neil Parish, told Farming Minister George Eustice it was wrong for supermarkets to be stocking so much New Zealand lamb at this time of year.
He called on Mr Eustice to ‘bring it to the attention of the major retailers’ that British lamb should be in shops.
The Minister responded by saying people wanted to buy high-quality lamb from the UK, but said high prices during the winter meant a number of sheep producers sold their lamb early, meaning there was less available now.
Halal and kosher labelling
In response to a call from Shipley MP Philip Davies for all halal and kosher meat products to be ‘properly labelled’ at the point of sale, Mr Eustice hinted that the Government could explore the issue after Brexit.
But he added: “There are some difficulties – there is no single definition of halal or kosher, for instance – which make compulsory labelling complex.”
Two MPs – Sir Edward Leigh and Anne-Marie Trevelyan – asked the Minister to promise glyphosate would remain available to UK farmers after Brexit if it is banned by the EU.
Mr Eustice said the European Food Safety Authority was very clear it is a safe product and the UK would continue to back a ‘position in line with science’ which keeps glyphosate authorised.
Shadow Defra Secretary Sue Hayman pressed the Minister on whether the Government would ‘place the needs of the agricultural sector at the heart of Brexit negotiations’.
She also questioned whether Defra had the capacity to design a workable agricultural policy, quoting the CLA who have said the department will not be able to draw one up in less than two years.
The Minister responded by saying EU farming unions were lobbying their Governments for a free trade agreement with the UK because EU agri-food exports to Britain are worth £28 billion.
“We have some tremendously talented policy officials in Defra and our agencies, and they have been working closely on the detail behind the design of future agricultural policy”, he added.
In response to a question about EU migrants working in food processing plants from Stephen Timms, Mr Eustice said the issue had been raised with him by the Food and Drink Federation.
MP for Faversham and Mid Kent Helen Whately asked the Secretary of State, Andrea Leadsom, about seasonal labour.
She was told the Government had assessed the need for a pilot seasonal workers scheme and decided the evidence showed one was not needed.
Mrs Leadsom added advice from the Migration Advisory Committee would be commissioned later this year, alongside a consultation with businesses.
Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers raised concerns about the Government’s commitment to biofuels as farmers in Lincolnshire are looking to grow crops for fuel.
In an answer which may disappoint those who fear a shutdown of the industry, Mr Eustice said: “We see a role for bioethanol fuels, but we are also keen to ensure we do not lose too much good agricultural land to biofuels.”