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Partnership extended by three years

Support for food and drink producers adds £1bn in sales, says Lochhead

Scotland Food & DrinkScotland’s food and drink industry has grown by £1 billion as a result of a four-year partnership with the government, according to new figures.

Food secretary Richard Lochhead yesterday said that was the value of the difference in turnover growth in the sector north of the border compared to the rest of Britain.

In that period sales in Scotland were up 20.8% against 8.6% for the whole UK.

Food and drink employs 360,000 people across the supply chain and is regarded as a growth sector, in spite of concerns in recent weeks that the big supermarket chains are reining in their spending to focus on big brands. Tesco is said to be planning a cut in the range of products it stocks from 90,000 to around 60,000.

While this was not mentioned during the meeting, some of the challenges facing the industry were discussed. Even so, Mr Lochhead confidently predicted a further £1 billion of opportunities for the sector by 2017, taking its value to the economy to £16.5bn.

Announcing a three-year extension to the partnership, together with Scottish Enterprise, he told the Scotland Food and Drink annual meeting in Glasgow that the sector would form a key strand of the government’s new economic strategy.

“I am confident that this ground-breaking partnership has been a key factor in the industry witnessing a rate of turnover growth that has left us £1 billion better off than it would have been had we been in line with UK growth – that is just staggering,” he told delegates.

“The Government Economic Strategy launched today sets out the ambitions to further increase economic growth and boost competitiveness. Scotland’s food and drink industry will benefit from this targeted approach.

“Scotland is fast becoming one of the world’s leading food and drink nations – demand for our products has been booming in the overseas markets for years now and I’m delighted to witness that same demand is rapidly increasing in our home market too.

“There is a lot to be proud of in Scottish food and drink, and a lot of potential for growth. And that is why it is important for our retail and food service sectors to encourage the sale of home-grown produce.”

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink (pictured), said: “Our way of working in Scotland is unique. We have brought different sectors of the industry together, working alongside government and its agencies to forge a real partnership.

“We have created a new culture of collaboration. Critically, we are seeing the economic success that this brings and we are rightly viewed by other countries as a model to follow. But our competitors will catch up so we need to deepen our partnership and impact over the next few years. The prize is taking an industry that was worth £10 billion in 2007 to one worth £16.5bn by 2017; a target that is now in our sights.”

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