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Food, Drink and Agriculture Forum Report

BritCham / CBBC
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On 2 September, the first Food, Drink and Agriculture forum of the year was held at the British Centre. The main purpose of the meeting was to inform members in relevant sectors about the upcoming visit to China of Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Owen Paterson, as well as new regulations.

The forum was well attended by members from a variety of companies. Chaired by Samantha Northey (AB Agri) and Peter Bloxham (PFB Associates), the discussion was steered towards issues that participants would like to raise with the minister this autumn. Forum members would like to ensure a programme of activities is in place for his visit, as well as a list of the key concerns shared by industry members and policy changes that they would like to propose to him. 

The forum also covered items such as the Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Network (SAIN), whose work, it was felt, might be publicised more widely in China. It was also suggested that the British Government is becoming more alert to the potential in this sector, as exemplified by the paper it recently published, "A UK Strategy for Agricultural Technologies".

One of the central themes of this forum was regulation and policy changes. Key points raised in the discussion included:

  • There are currently several laws under revision although they all fall under a more general food law. These include laws on advertising, trademarking and consumer rights protection. Their revision ought to be monitored to ensure that they are followed through and enacted.
  • The Association of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) is working on new food import/export regulations relating to food categories. They will accord more responsibility to food producers and thus increase the latter's burden. Plans are afoot for a food traceability system.
  • Companies in this sector are urged to submit comments on the Food Safety Law to the European Union Chamber of Commerce (via the British Chamber). 
  • There was to be an EU Chamber working group w/c 9 Sept about the new regulations and how they will be managed in future.
The forum concluded with a presentation by Chair Peter Bloxham showing the British Food Festival he attended in Chongqing in July. It was opened by the Consul-General in Chongqing, and included exhibitions of a mouth-watering spread of British produce from cheeses and toad-in-the-hole to beers and ciders.
Minutes from the meeting can be viewed below.
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