British children should grow up enjoying the taste of Norfolk turkey, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Wensleydale cheese and home-grown pears and apples, says Liz Truss.
In her speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Ms Truss said it was a “disgrace” that two-thirds of the apples, nine out of 10 pears and two-thirds of cheese we eat in this country are imported.
During a passionate defence of British food, the Defra secretary referred to the story of Isaac Newton, who discovered gravity after an apple fell on his head, and said: “This fruit has always been a part of Britain.”
She continued: “I want our children to grow up enjoying the taste of British apples as well as Cornish sardines, Norfolk turkey, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Wensleydale cheese, Herefordshire pears and, of course, black pudding.”
Ms Truss told delegates she would not rest “until the British apple is at the top of the tree”.
She argued that under this government, food and farming has been “one of our biggest success stories”.
Her predecessors, Owen Paterson and Caroline Spelman, had helped open up 600 new overseas markets.
And in the past four years, exports had increased by £1bn with “superb” results.
“I want our children to grow up enjoying the taste of British apples as well as Cornish sardines, Norfolk turkey, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Wensleydale cheese, Herefordshire pears and, of course, black pudding.”
Liz Truss, Defra secretary
“We are growing wheat more competitively than the Canadian Prairies,” she added.
“We’re producing more varieties of cheese than the French. And we are even selling tea to China. Yorkshire tea.
“When it comes to British food, we have never had it so good.”
In a fortnight, Ms Truss will be “bigging up” British food in Paris at the world’s largest food fair. And in December, she will in Beijing negotiating new markets for pork.
“I am determined that our farmers and producers will have access to more markets both at home and abroad,” she said.
Earlier in her speech, Ms Truss took a swipe at the previous Labour government’s record on farming and the environment.
“The last Labour government tied our farmers up in red tape, wasted £600m on EU fines and left us with the worst bovine TB problem in Europe,” she said.
“The fact is: Labour does not care about the countryside.
“They think that we can’t grow enough of our own food. They think that we can just outsource it. Well they are wrong. Decline is not inevitable.”
Ms Truss also defended the government’s record on its efforts to tackle climate, plant trees and improve flood defences.
“We are spending £3.2bn – half a billion more than the last government – better protecting 165,000 homes and 580,000 acres of farmland.”