The blustery arrival of St Jude’s storm last week signified that winter is just round the corner. Happily, amidst the rain and the increasing cold, Cornwall as ever offers its consolations. For the season of dusted – off umbrellas, darkening evenings and foggy Sundays is also the season when we come together to enjoy the food and drink our Duchy produces.
From the Harvest Festivals that took place in hundreds of schools, chapels and churches, to Falmouth’s Oyster Festival, through to the Cornwall Food and Drink Festival and BBC Radio Cornwall’s week of Cornish Food, the past few months have seen a joyous celebration of Cornish produce.
It is good to see an excellent organisation, Cornwall Food and Drink, going from strength to strength and leading these celebrations; organising the Cornwall Food and Drink Festival at Lemon Quay and this week hosting an exhibition of Cornish producers at Westminster. Producers participating in the Westminster event included well known market leading Cornish brands like Sharps and Roddas along with newer companies, including Roseland based St Ewe’s eggs. St Ewe’s eggs include higher than usual levels of the nutrient selenium and come from a number of Roseland farms; a real community effort producing super-healthy food.
Cornwall Food and Drink work to promote such outstanding Cornish produce to new markets, helping more local businesses to break into national supermarkets.
Cornish produce doesn’t just taste great; it also plays a vital role in Cornwall’s economy. Over the past decade the value of the sector has doubled, and is now approaching £2 billion. Cornish Food and Drink businesses deliver 6% of Cornwall’s Gross Domestic Product, and are helping the Duchy’s economy to grow at a faster rate than any other part of rural Britain. Cornwall’s finances, as well as our kitchen tables, need Cornish food and drink to continue to thrive.
I am pleased that the Government’s decision to give Cornish businesses powers to grow the local economy is now paying off for producers. The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership have now launched the ‘Skills Support for the Workforce’ project that gives workers in a range of key sectors, including food and drink production, access to high quality skills training to boost their own careers and the Cornish sector they work in. More information can be found by visiting http://www.cornwall.ac.uk
Our vibrant, increasingly skilled and now widely renowned Cornish Food and Drink sector really is a cause for celebration this autumn, and will be in the years to come.
Of course growing and harvesting in Cornwall isn’t limited to businesses, thousands of us enjoy growing produce and flowers in our gardens and allotments. I was concerned to learn from the Royal Horticultural Society that new EU regulations have been proposed that could drive up the cost and reduce the varieties of horticultural seeds and raised this with David Cameron in a question in the House of Commons last week. The Prime Minister, who is himself a keen gardener, promised to look closely at the issue.