By 2030, farming, fishing, food and drink will be the most valuable industry in Scotland. It will be recognised at home and abroad as a model of collaboration and a world leader in responsible, profitable growth. That sounds like a lofty statement I admit. But that is our vision; the ambition of the Scotland Food & drink Partnership, a unique coalition of industry organisations in partnership with government and whom, collectively, are massively ambitious and optimistic about the road ahead.
Back in March, we unveiled Ambition 2030, our strategy to drive growth in Scotland’s farming, fishing, food and drink industry. Alongside it we stated our collective belief that we can more than double turnover of the sector to reach £30 billion by 2030.
Of course, there is much uncertainty around us not least as the UK Government seeks to define a new role for the country outside of the European Union. There may be opportunities that arise from that, but the need to secure our workforce (40% of whom have come from elsewhere in Europe) and trade cost-effectively with Europe (the destination for 70% of Scottish food exports) are both critical issues in achieving our ambition.
Yet, uncertainty is nothing new to us, or in fact any business out there. The first Scotland Food & Drink strategy was written during the financial crisis of 2007/2008 and our industry not only came through that but is now stronger than ever.
In recent years, food and drink has been Scotland’s best performing sector, with record export figures in 2016 – Scotland sold £4 billion of Scotch Whisky and £1.5 billion of food globally last year. Sales at home are increasing rapidly too. The sector is worth £14 billion annually and 115,000 people work directly in the industry. Perhaps more tellingly, food manufacturing in Scotland has been growing at twice the rate of the UK average for the sector since 2008.
However, if we are to achieve our £30 billion potential, there is a huge amount of work to be done and we must achieve greater progress in areas that have been more of a challenge in recent years.
We need to exploit the premium markets in Scotland, the rest of the UK and internationally, we need to make our supply chains more effective, we need to encourage businesses to innovative and we need to improve the attractiveness of our sector as a career destination. We also need to embrace an even deeper culture of responsibility, seeking to make a positive impact on the environment and communities around us and on the health and wellbeing of Scotland’s population.
Finally, we must not forget that collaboration has been the most important ingredient in the sector’s success over the last decade and it will be the secret of success in the coming years. The unique partnership we have worked hard to achieve is the key to unlocking our £30 billion potential and it will require us to work closer than ever.
Together, we are building a national brand for food and drink in Scotland, founded upon world class products and talented people. Ambition 2030 is our roadmap for the coming years and, by working together, we can cement farming, fishing, food and drink’s place as Scotland’s most valuable industry.
by James Withers, Chief Executive, Scotland Food & Drink
James is speaking at the upcoming Scotsman Conference – Ambition and Innovation: The future of food and drink in Scotland. To find out more, or to book your place click here.