Seafood’s central role in the government’s food strategy has been welcomed in the UK’s fish processing capital.
The sector and the town’s position as the leading hub for the industry was flagged up in the policy paper, released this week by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
It aims to deliver a “prosperous agri-food and seafood sector to ensure secure food supply in an unpredictable world, while contributing to the leveling-up agenda”. The huge impact and response to the Covid pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine were also highlighted, with Secretary of State George Eustice – no stranger to the seafood cluster – laying out plans for “healthier, more home-grown and affordable diets for all” .
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In the strategy, described as the “beginning of this conversation” and building on action already being taken, he said: “Seafood is another potentially lower-carbon and healthy source of protein which can grow sustainably to fulfill its potential within the food sector. We are investing £ 24 million to support seafood science and innovation as part of the £ 100 million UK Seafood Fund. This will include funding projects that develop innovation and technology in the seafood space.
“Innovations in aquaculture will also help us boost production in the seafood sector without adding to pressure on fish stocks. The fund also includes at least £ 65 million for an infrastructure scheme, investing in ports, and aquaculture and processing facilities for the seafood industry, to help support coastal communities.
“The seafood sector is an essential source of employment and part of the community in the Humber and has an important role to play in leveling-up. Grimsby is England’s leading fish processing hub, accounting for around a third of all UK seafood processing jobs. It has a rich heritage in producing and processing high quality seafood that the nation loves, including Traditional Grimsby Smoked Fish.
“The Seafood Grimsby and Humber Alliance represents the region’s seafood and trading processing cluster, which is composed of around 70 companies with more than 5,500 employees and that together support a further 10,000 jobs along the value chain. The Grimsby cluster, working closely with government, will play an important role in ensuring the sector can take advantage of new trade deals, adapt to climate change, and increase uptake of skills training to ensure the cluster has the right people to continue to provide quality seafood to the UK and beyond. ”
It comes after a few days of civic celebration around the 25th anniversary of the Grimsby-held Seafood Chef of the Year competition, with stars of the sector converging on the town, as The Fishmongers’ Company – the liveried sector standard-bearer celebrating 750 years – backs the cluster.
Simon Dwyer, secretary of Grimsby Fish Merchants’ Association, is a leading figure in the cluster administration.
He said: “We have put a lot of hard work into building bridges with Defra, getting them to understand what Grimsby is about, the cluster, the Community Renewal Fund money we won, and it has resonated with them.
“The NHS recommends two servings of seafood a week, it is sustainable and the more people that eat seafood the better it is for Grimsby.
We are currently averaging 1.16 portions a week – if we can improve that it will only be good for us.
“We want to partner with Defra around making seafood as affordable as possible. We want to build further links with those behind the British caught fish, and we already are. We bring up fish caught in the South West every week, all types of different species, and we’re becoming a distribution network.
“We’re going to build on this and we appreciate the support from The Fishmongers’ Company and Seafish.”
Greater Lincolnshire’s ‘UK Food Valley’ entity has also welcomed the White Paper Food Strategy.
Sarah Louise Fairburn, chair of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s Food Board., Said: “As the Food Strategy notes, the seafood sector is an essential source of employment in the Humber region and has an important role to play in leveling up. Grimsby is England’s leading fish processing hub, accounting for around a third of all UK seafood processing jobs, and it has a rich heritage in producing and processing high-quality seafood that the nation loves.
“The strategy adds that the Grimsby seafood cluster, working closely with Government, will play an important role in ensuring the sector can take advantage of new trade deals, adapt to climate change, and increase uptake of skills training to ensure the cluster has the right people to continue to provide quality seafood to the UK and beyond.
“The recommendation to increase fish production through aquaculture is also in line with our plans and aquaculture proposition published in 2021.”
She was also keen to see the technological developments on patch being recognized as vital.
“We are pleased to see recognition of the need to increase UK food production and to automate to help enable this, as has been spearheaded by the team at the University of Lincoln led by Professor Simon Pearson,” Ms Fairburn said.
“We welcome the recommendations to increase the production of vegetables, salad and fruit as promoted in our fresh produce investment proposition, a sector where Greater Lincolnshire is home to UK-leading production, trading and distribution clusters.”
She added: “We look forward to working across the food chain to deliver on the Food Strategy, and to reading the Health White Paper expected later this year which aims to tackle some of the UK’s health challenges.”
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