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Foreign buyers get taste for Scotland

£1.1 billion export record for Scottish food

Richard LochheadScottish food exports have surpassed the £1.1 billion mark for the first time, with total food and drink exports valued at £5.1 billion in 2014.

The new figures, which have been extracted from official HMRC export statistics for 2014, show that food exports alone grew by 3.5% on 2013, driven primarily by an increase in fish and seafood, which was up £38 million.

The news has been welcomed by Rural Affairs minister Richard Lochhead as a sign of increasing international awareness and appreciation of the quality and provenance of Scottish food.

The Cabinet Secretary made the announcement during a visit to Scottish producer Mara Seaweed in Edinburgh, where he found out more about the company’s plans to begin exporting to the seaweed-eating nations of Asia by the end of 2015. The market in Asia, where seaweed is used for food, is estimated to be worth around $16 billion.

Speaking ahead of tonight’s Food and Drink Excellence Awards, Mr Lochhead said: “These figures are extremely encouraging, particularly long-term, and reflective of the fantastic produce we have to offer here in Scotland.

“We are now seeing a rise in the popularity of Scottish produce in emerging markets – in China for example, we’ve witnessed a massive increase of 82 per cent in food exports, with overall value now up to £46m, evidence that the Chinese appreciate great Scottish seafood and meat.

“Our fish and seafood exports have soared, with sales hitting £613m – up 6.6 per cent on 2013 – due to an increase in exports to Asia and Oceania, the EU and Sub-Saharan Africa.

“It’s especially important to highlight this achievement during the Year of Food and Drink. We have a wonderful natural larder that lends itself to some of the best produce in the world and we have some extremely hard-working farmers, producers, and processors who deserve the recognition that comes with their products being in demand all across the globe.

“Scotland rightly deserves its reputation as a Land of Food and Drink, with a manufacturing industry which has seen turnover growth increase by 20.8 per cent in just four years – outshining the UK as a whole, which grew by just 8.6 per cent over the same period.”

The top international destination for Scottish food and drink produce remains the USA, with exports worth £800m followed by France, with exports of £734m in 2014. For the first time, Spain has entered the top three export destinations for Scottish food and drink, with exports valued at £247m. The fourth and fifth export markets, ranked by value, are Germany (£208m) and Singapore (£202m) respectively.

The industry has also benefited from some strong increases in food exports to a number of growth markets during 2014, which has helped to balance the overall picture for food and drink exports. For example, food exports to China are up a massive 82 per cent to £46m, mostly due to a 92 per cent increase in exports of fish and seafood, and meat exports of £1.4m, following the lifting of an import ban on British pork. Food exports to the wider Asia & Oceania region are up 31 per cent to £113m.

Similarly, food exports to the UAE increased 25 per cent in 2014 from their value in 2013 to £124m, which is significant as it sees the UAE jump from 15th place to 8th in terms of biggest export destinations.

The largest share of food exports was in the fish and seafood sector, with international sales hitting £613m – up 6.6 per cent compared to the previous year. The rise in value of fish & seafood exports was primarily driven by an increase in exports to Asia and Oceania (+£20m), the EU (+£15m) and Sub-Saharan Africa (+£11m) and has been aided by a collaborative industry effort to boost overseas demand for Scottish fish and seafood.

Susan Beattie, head of food & drink at Scottish Development International, said: “These figures show some really positive growth in particular markets as we start to widen our export base beyond Europe, and broaden the range of food products being exported.

“The results in key markets such as the Middle East illustrate strong demand for our premium produce – Scottish salmon and seafood has been particularly successful, and there is still a huge opportunity for other food and drink products. It’s also heartening to see growth in other categories such as sugar & honey, cereals and dairy, which were up 86 per cent, 10.5 per cent and 6 per cent respectively.

“As a partnership we are investing in a team of global food and drink specialists to dovetail with the SDI support already on offer through our team in Scotland and in our 29 offices around the world.

“These specialists are based in our ‘top prospect’ export markets, but at the beginning of next month they will be back in Scotland for face to face meetings with ambitious Scottish companies looking to export to their markets. This type of on-the-ground connection is so important for companies looking to expand internationally, and is a great example of how we can help food and drink companies to prepare for export success.”

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, said: “Scotland’s national identity continues to grow in food and drink markets around the world.

“I believe that the increasing collaboration we’re forging in Scotland is the game-changer. Companies here working together to supply overseas markets and, crucially, industry bodies and government are working as one to ensure the appropriate support is available. There are still challenges in a very competitive world, but the quality of our products alongside strength of the Scottish provenance story is reason for real optimism and ambition.”

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