New Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, Jim Paice MP, helped kick off public voting for the Sussex Food & Drink Awards 2010/11 at the South of England Show at sussexfoodawards.biz

The awards are all about supporting local farmers and producers and the businesses which sell and promote their produce in the local market place. Awards categories this year are: Sussex Farmer of the Year (sponsored by Knill James); Sussex Food Producer of the Year (sponsored by Musgrave Retail Partners); Sussex Drink Producer of the Year (sponsored by Natural PR); Best Sussex Food/Farm Shop (sponsored by Mayo Wynne Baxter); Sussex Butcher of the Year (sponsored by Leonards and Natural Farms); Best Sussex Eating Experience (sponsored by A Taste of Sussex); Sussex Young Chef of the Year (sponsored by Blue Spark Organisation with City College Brighton & Hove); and Best Sussex Farmers Market, sponsored by the Lewes brewers Harveys.

Chairman of the Judges, Clive Beddall OBE, said: “Our eight categories acknowledge every aspect of the agri-food chain: from farmers through to retailers and foodservice outlets. The Awards continue to grow in popularity, with over 9000 people voting for 300 local businesses last year. For 2010 we are introducing a new and easy-to-use online voting website at http://www.sussexfoodawards.biz/

Voting is open until 1st October 2010 and the awards are presented at the ‘Sussex foodie event of the year’ – the awards dinner, held at the East Sussex National Golf Resort & Spa in January 2011.

At the launch, over 80 VIPS enjoyed a delicious Sussex breakfast, while the Minister debated topics affecting the food and farming industry with William Goodwin, a Sussex dairy farmer and the South of England Agricultural Society’s Vice Chairman; Clive Beddall OBE, media commentator and Chairman of the Sussex Food & Drink Awards; and William White, NFU South East Regional Director.

Local nursery school children, dressed as bees to raise awareness of the plight of the honey bee, helped kick off awards voting at the official launch of the South of England Show.