BUSINESS NEWS: Spotlight on food at Commons summit led by Hayes

John Hayes MP, Ursula Lidbetter (second and third left) and Mark Tinsley (right) with farmers and food producers at the Greater Lincolnshire LEP Agri-Food Summit in London.  Photo supplied by GLLEP.
John Hayes MP, Ursula Lidbetter (second and third left) and Mark Tinsley (right) with farmers and food producers at the Greater Lincolnshire LEP Agri-Food Summit in London. Photo supplied by GLLEP.
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Some of South Holland’s leading food producers put their case for the area as the UK’s centre for the industry at a meeting with Lincolnshire’s MPs.

Leading figures from Addo Food Group, Bakkavor, Dalehead Foods and QV Foods met with business leaders and politicians at the House of Commons to discuss issues affecting the food industry.

We were delighted to learn that Lincoln University regards the National Centre for Food Manufacturing in Holbeach and the proposed new Food Enterprise Zone so positively.

Mark Tinsley, Chairman of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership Food Board

Hosted by John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings, the meeting included talks on innovation and technology, road networks, labour issues and Brexit.

Mark Tinsley, Holbeach Hurn farmer and a board member with the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (GLLEP), said: “The meeting was organised by the GLLEP to allow its Food Board membership to talk through the challenges facing the greater Lincolnshire food industry and what they see as the solutions.

“The attendance by MPs was excellent, with eight of our county’s staying for all the talks and to discuss issues afterwards.

“Clearly, employment was a major topic of discussion and the lack of personnel was seen as a potential brake on hoped-for expansion.

“However, it was also recognised that smart technology would ease this problem in due course and the challenge will be to survive in good order until that new technology becomes robust enough for the industry to use.”

Delegates were told how the food industry is responsible for 24 per cent of greater Lincolnshire jobs and 21 per cent of its economic output, according to GLLEP figures.

During the summit, Mr Hayes gave a commitment that he would try and push forward with calls for the dualling of sections of the A16 and A17 in his role as Transport Minister.

Mr Tinsley said: “John Hayes was a brilliant chairman of the meeting where we were delighted to learn that Lincoln University is so active in the smart technology area, also regarding the National Centre for Food Manufacturing in Holbeach and the proposed new Food Enterprise Zone so positively.

“In the meantime, steps are being taken by GLLEP to make certain that Spalding and its food, flower and bulb industries are able to expand and thrive.”

Mr Hayes said: “A range of food producers and farmers from across the country came down to the House of Commons for the GLLEP meeting.

“We talked about technology, investment, labour issues, skills and infrastructure - all things that affect the food industry.

“We often think that agriculture and horticulture are underpromoted when the food sector is such an important part of our economy, both locally and nationally, so we need to get its profile raised.

“Therefore, part of our plan is to meet with Business Secretary Greg Clark to make the food sector an element of any industrial strategy.”

Mr Tinsley, who chairs GLLEP’s Food Board, said: “Competitive pressures are driving new business models in Lincolnshire’s food chain as much as anywhere and so it’s important that we all work together to grow the food economy.

“Our food businesses do have concerns about trade and labour supply in the light of Brexit, but we are also being proactive in embracing industry-wide challenges such as how to reduce waste, manage water supplies and improve efficiency.

“With more of its economy focused on food processing than any other area in the UK, Lincolnshire really can have influence if it works as a group on education, skills, careers, smart technology investment, employment and infrastructure.

“I believe that this event was a great success and our key messages are really beginning to have an impact, opening up a vital dialogue at a time of great change and we are confident that with the right policies we can continue to grow our food economy.”

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