04 October 2006

S2M-4884 Food Supply Chain

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 4 October 2006

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:00]

… … …
Food Supply Chain

The Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-4884, in the name of Sarah Boyack, on the Environment and Rural Development Committee's eighth report of 2006, which is on the committee's inquiry into the food chain.

… … …

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I draw members' attention to my entry in the register of members' interests.

In the helpful briefing that it issued in advance of this debate, the Federation of Small Businesses reminds us that three quarters of our land mass is under agriculture and that the landscape that we love to see is in the stewardship of our farmers, crofters and growers. The industry produces £2 billion a year, which is about 2 per cent of our gross domestic product and, with whisky, represents £2.4 billion in exports. Some 70,000 people are employed in agriculture in Scotland, which is approaching 10 per cent of our rural workforce. We know that it is important.

Ugly fruit and vegetables have been talked about. I am fortunate in that I am able to go to a shop in Longside in my constituency and buy, from a co-operative, ugly but deliciously tasty fruit. However, there is only one such co-operative in my large constituency and there is none in adjacent constituencies. Next week, when I come down for our party conference, I will be bringing beef from my constituency to my friend who has the great misfortune to live in the central belt. I will be doing so because, of course, the quality of the beef transcends the quality that is associated with the extremely local purchasing that is, perhaps, not sufficient to sustain our industries.

I will pose a few questions about how Governments behave. First, does the Italian Government buy Parma ham or Danish bacon? Secondly, does the French Government buy champagne or cava? I think that we know the answer to those questions. Thirdly, when the First Minister is stocking the drinks cupboard in Charlotte Square, does he buy Vat 69 or does he import that well known Indian whisky, Cat 69? Of course he does not buy the Indian whisky. In other words, there are ways in which one can specify something that is particularly local when one wants to buy it. Some things are within the rules because they come only from a local area. With regard to the Parliament, I propose that, the next time that Frank McAveety wants a scotch pie, he is able to order an Arbroath smokie scotch pie, because Arbroath smokies can come only from Arbroath. That will mean that he will be assured of a quality Scottish product that will meet his every need.

Ross Finnie: Does the member agree that, given that, as well as Arbroath smokies, certain sorts of lamb and beef also have protected geographical indicator status, a scotch pie might be more clearly identified by using the right product?

Stewart Stevenson: I direct the minister to Downies of Whitehills, that excellent fish processor in my constituency, where he may buy and enjoy precisely the product that I have described.

The minister makes precisely the point that I am making. Where there is a designation, there is a way in which we can use that designation to control the sources from which a contract may be fulfilled. The bottom line is that we need to use imagination and energy to promote local sourcing within the rules of the European Union. I have given only some examples, of course. I look forward to Scottish venison receiving a designation and, with that in mind, say that if kids want to eat burgers in schools, perhaps they should be given venison burgers because they are healthier than some of the stuff that they currently eat.

Some health products are food related. For example, yesterday I was told that growing bog myrtle will yield £750 per hectare, yet the Executive offers farmers no support to diversify into that crop. There is a range of imaginative things that we can do. Indeed, they are the kind of things that political colleagues of our Government in Scotland have been seeking to do in Wales in order to promote the value of Welsh food and sustain and support local procurement. The committee makes the point quite forcibly in its report. Paragraph 28 reads:

"The Committee believes that the Executive must think creatively about procurement".

I do not expect all my remarks to be taken seriously or literally, but I make those points in order to engage the minds and sentiments of members with the issue and in the hope that that will encourage them to be similarly creative in thinking of ways in which we can proceed.

It is certainly a huge disgrace that so much waste comes from our supermarkets. They chuck food into the bin to the extent that, in parts of these islands, the freegan movement is operating, whereby people live solely by scavenging from supermarket bins. That tells us something about the waste that is intrinsic in the supermarket system.

I close on the subject of red tape and unnecessary costs for producers by highlighting once again some of the unhelpful activities of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency that put unnecessary costs on farmers. There have been fights over the use of tallow. That fight has been won, but the fights over road planings continue. Better co-ordination between producers, processors in the food chain and Government would certainly help.

Categories [Environment and Rural Development]

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