World forks out £1bn for Scottish cuisine

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IT was once the laughing stock of the culinary world - represented by a greasy haggis sat next to a pile of lumpy potatoes, topped off with a deep-fried Mars bar.

But now, Scotland's gastronomic delights are the toast of foodies across the globe, as new figures revealed that exports of Scottish produce have smashed the 1 billion barrier for the first time.

Shipments of fish and seafood made up the lion's share of the food-export market last year, selling 620 million of goods - followed by a strong global demand for Scottish seed potatoes.

"This fantastic result is testimony to the hard work of the indigenous food and drink industry and the growing international perception of Scotland as a world-leading producer of high-quality food and drink," said Anne MacColl, chief executive of Scottish Development International (SDI), which compiled the figures.

"We are very proud of this reputation and this is something we are continuing to nurture through our ongoing contact with some of the world's leading food and drink buyers."

Poland - which has long been a major exporter of its own goods to stock cafes and delis to serve Scotland's large Polish community - was the fastest growing market last year, importing 139 per cent more Scottish food and drink products than during the previous 12 months.

It was closely followed by the United Arab Emirates, which noted growth of 114 per cent.

But France - which has had a long standing link to Scottish gastronomy amid claims that it could have given the recipe for haggis to the Scots during the Auld Alliance - Ireland and Spain remain the biggest importers of Scottish foods.

The US also remained a popular destination for produce, accounting for almost half of the global Scottish salmon exports.

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SDI said a group of Scottish companies, including brewery Innis and Gunn, ice cream maker Mackies and porridge firm Stoats, are projecting combined new sales of almost 20m in the US over the next three years.

Including the drinks market, which is driven by rocketing overseas demand for Scotch whisky, combined total international sales of produce from north of the Border increased by 11 per cent to 4.51bn.

In Asia, where whisky sales are soaring - rising by a quarter in China alone - Scottish produce is now 40 per cent cheaper than it was two years ago, because of fluctuations in exchange rates.

"The numbers show that traditional export markets such as Europe and the US are proving very attractive to Scottish companies, but we can't underestimate the opportunities further afield in Asia," said Ms MacColl.

"Asia has plenty of high net worth individuals who have money in their pockets."

Industry body Scotland Food and Drink has set a target of a 25 per cent rise in trade over the next seven years, with exports being the primary driver."It is encouraging to see such outstanding export figures," said Ray Jones, chair of Scotland Food and Drink. "The global economy is changing at a fast pace with new opportunities emerging every day."

Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said: "Scottish food and drink is world-renowned for its quality and I am pleased to see its top reputation is reaping rewards for the sector as reflected through this increase in international sales and exports."

The figures - compiled by customs body HMRC and SDI - represent the exports of all produce leaving Scotland from a Scottish port or airport during 2010.

A spokeswoman for SDI said a proportion of Scottish produce was exported via ports in England and Wales - and therefore the Scotland-only figures were a "conservative" estimate of the true value of Scottish exports.

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