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Government offers £7.5m

Food and drink aims to double despite Brexit concerns

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon: pledged funding support (photo by Terry Murden)

An ambitious plan to double the size of Scotland’s food and drink industry to £30 billion was unveiled today, despite concerns over the impact of the Brexit decision.

The sector is currently worth £14.4bn a year, employing 119,000 people, and is growing at twice the rate of the UK average.

The new strategy has been developed by the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership, an industry-led partnership of the main organisations in the farming, fishing, food and drink sector, alongside the Scottish Government and its key agencies.

‘Ambition 2030’ establishes a vision to cement food and drink as Scotland’s most valuable industry, with the opportunity to more than double turnover in the sector by 2030.

Today, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged £7.5m to support the plan, topped up with £2.5 from the industry. This compares to £400,000 of public money currently provided.

Speaking about the £30bn target, Ms Sturgeon told the Scotland Food and Drink conference in Glasgow: “It is an ambitious goal but it is the right one and you are to be commended for showing that ambition.”

James Withers, Scotland Food & Drink chief executive, acknowledged that the target is ambitious, particularly in light of the Brexit decision last year. He admitted this week that he was “afraid” for the implications of not securing a satisfactory post-Brexit deal for the UK.

Today he said: “Ten years ago, when the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership was formed, our sector was relatively static. It is now one of the country’s best performing industries and it’s our fastest growing export sector. However, today sets out a new vision to build further on that.  

“As an industry, we have identified an opportunity to more than double the size of our sector to £30 billion by 2030, making it Scotland’s most valuable industry.”

“A huge amount of work is required to unlock that potential and it will not come easily,” he said.

Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister: ‘I commend your ambition (photo by Terry Murden)

“There is uncertainty ahead, with Brexit in the forefront of everybody’s mind. Whilst big political upheavals are out of the industry’s control, we can control how we develop the Scottish brand, the markets we want to sell to and the investments we make in improving skills, innovation and supply chains.

“Food and drink is now a national success story for Scotland, yet there are areas requiring more work. Too few view our industry as a top career choice, many farmers feel detached from the success story and we can do more to support improvements in Scotland’s health.

“The focus we now place on all of that means we approach the coming years with real optimism. It will take a huge amount of dedication from industry, government and its agencies, but working collaboratively, there is every reason we can make Scotland the best place in the world to run a food and drink business.

“Whether you are on a tractor or fishing boat, on the factory floor or around the boardroom table, I believe this is the industry to be in over the next few years. There will be challenges ahead, there always are, however the clear vision and strategy we are setting out today creates a foundation for profitable, responsible growth in the coming years.”

Food and drink has been Scotland’s best performing sector in recent years, with record export figures released last weekend.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon joined the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership in Glasgow to launch the strategy.

The strategy focuses on three areas:

People and Skills: raising attractiveness of the industry as a career destination and investing in the existing workforce.

Supply Chain: ensuring farmers, fishermen, manufacturers and buyers work in closer partnership, to ensure greater profitability is shared across the industry.

Innovation: embracing a new culture of developing new products and processes to drive growth.

In addition, the industry has made a renewed commitment to responsible growth, committing to deliver broader benefits to the country beyond just sales growth. This includes an offer of a new partnership with Government and its agencies to drive improvements in Scotland’s health and wellbeing and to commit again to embracing world-leading standards of environmental sustainability.

The 2030 strategy identifies collaboration as the most important ingredient in the sector’s success to date with plans to deepen joint-working between the industry, government and its agencies in the coming years, as well as to make support easier to access for businesses. 


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