UK food and drink sales hit £20bn across the world

UK environment secretary Andrea Leadsom will address the English NFU conference. Picture: Contributed

UK environment secretary Andrea Leadsom will address the English NFU conference. Picture: Contributed

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Global sales of the UK’s food and drink have hit the £20 billion mark for the first time, UK environment secretary Andrea Leadsom is due to announce today.

Speaking ahead of the English NFU conference, which begins today, Leadsom will be seeking to find some good news ahead of what is likely be a stormy meeting – complete with calls for more detail of the government’s post-Brexit farm strategy.

For, while the turf war over who controls Scotland’s agricultural policy is unlikely to take centre stage at the meeting in Birmingham, English producers are also wearying of the lack of any clear information on the direction support and trade deals are likely to take – and hopes will be high that a significant announcement will be made on the white paper consultation that was promised for the early months of the year.

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On the home front, this weekend Scottish rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing warned that a “hard Brexit” would wipe out more than £4.6bn worth of funding, potentially devastating Scotland’s farming and food sectors.

Stating that Scottish agriculture was more heavily reliant on EU funding than the rest of the UK, he said that between 2014 and 2020, Scotland expected to receive around £500 million a year in the form of EU farm support.

Claiming that the UK government’s lack of clear thinking on Brexit put this at risk, he said that Scottish Ministers had sought reassurance that this level of funding would continue beyond Brexit.

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“Yet no guarantees have been given” said Ewing, who added: “This could mean Scotland’s rural and coastal communities facing the loss of subsidies, including CAP direct payments, market measures, the rural development programme, and participation in new research proposals, as well as the loss of markets and workers if locked out of the EU single market.”

• Speaking at yesterday’s Stirling bull sales, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson promised to continue to push for Scotland’s interests when she speaks with UK farm minister George Eustice later this week.

On the red meat levy repatriation front, she indicated that, while there were benefits from working together, Scotland should not be disadvantaged.

Davidson added that she would also address the convergence issue, but a “lot of discussion” still had to take place.

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