This week is Royal Cornwall Show week and on Friday I will be attending a debate as food and farming Minister on the potential for growth in the food industry in Cornwall. Few people realise it but food is our largest manufacturing industry, employing around half a million people and contributing some £100 billion to our economy.
The question being debated is whether the food industry has the potential to become a key driver of prosperity in Cornwall. We have seen great progress in recent years. The Cornish pasty industry has grown exponentially and is now to be found throughout the country. We have seen many new companies like Lynher Dairies creating new markets with their highly acclaimed Cornish Yarg. Companies like Roddas Cream are creating new export markets and developing a really strong brand synonymous with Cornwall. Last and by no means least, companies like Falfish have ensured that Cornwall is the market leader for many fish species.
Over the last decade or so there has been growing interest in food provenance. People want to know where their food has come from and how it was produced. Cornwall has definitely managed to carve out a niche in that new market through attention to detail and commitment to the values that make Cornwall unique. The Government has just designated parts of Cornwall a "Food Enterprise Zone" to try to provide additional support to the industry and maintain momentum.
I have many childhood memories of the Royal Cornwall Show. When I was growing up my father was one of the many volunteer stewards who gave up his time each year to make the event possible, with an early start at 5 am for days in a row to get to the show and manage the gates before any of the traffic started to arrive. For many years we used to show our South Devon Cattle there and my brother and father will be there again this year with the family's prize winning Lop Eared Pigs, which is a rare breed native to Cornwall. I am very much looking forward to it.