WORK being undertaken on the outskirts of York to increase the UK’s competitiveness in international agri-food export markets was under review during a visit from a Government select committee.

Julian Sturdy, MP for York Outer, along with two other members of the EFRA (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Select Committee spent a day at the National Agri-Food Innovation Campus (NAFIC) at Sand Hutton.

The visit was arranged to showcase the latest science and technology being developed by Fera Science Limited (Fera), which is a joint venture between Capita plc and Defra, and Crop Health and Protection Ltd (CHAP), one of the government’s four agri-tech centres.

The work of Fera and CHAP supports sustainable intensification of farming to increase the UK’s food security and competitiveness in international agri-food export markets.

Welcoming the group, Dr Andrew Swift, chief executive of Fera, explained that there has seldom been a more important time in recent history for the UK to meet the challenges of the global agri-food economy as it prepares for exit from the European Union.

The three MPs, including chairman Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) and Mr Sturdy, who are both farmers, along with Angela Smith (Penistone and Stockbridge), saw at first hand some of the technologies and services being developed by Fera and CHAP.

During the meeting they reviewed the breadth of expert services delivered by Fera in support of Defra since it entered into public private sector partnership with Capita in April 2015, and learned how the joint venture has succeeded not only in sustaining the Government’s investment in internationally renowned science and research, but has enhanced the reach and benefit of UK science to a wider user base.

As well as learning about how Fera was protecting the UK from the threat of incursions such as the Asian Hornet and international food fraud, they also heard how Fera and CHAP were committing resources to support regional economic development, both in skills development and training (from graduate recruitment to at all levels of apprenticeship).

After the tour, committee chairman Mr Parish said: “This has been an incredibly interesting day and given us a lot to think about.

“It’s all very necessary going forward if we want to make sure that the rising population is better fed.

“I am certain that Fera and CHAP will be at the forefront of this.”