Graham Blair: Food and drink sector is vital to economic growth
TOM Kitchin this week urged Scots to back Scottish Food Fortnight by eating locally-sourced food and supporting the fantastic larder on our doorsteps.
He reminded us the food and drink sector is vital to Scotland, with many quality brands carrying a global reputation.
Yet we don’t shout enough about it. Events like the Scottish Food & Drink 2012 conference next week allow us to do that – to celebrate the finest Scottish products, tell a genuine success story and move to the next level.
So how do we move on? Food and drink is one of the Scottish Government’s seven priority economic sectors and its future success depends upon strong partnerships between government, businesses and those who support them.
The speed with which you get produce to market is critical and, therefore, the industry also provides many benefits to other sectors, notably transport and distribution. Many products come from rural locations and inward investment has to be attractive, while the quality of the labour force and skills is also important. Some food and drink businesses are among the largest employers in their island or Highland communities; they are critical to the economic stability of those communities.
Moving forward means driving more exports and encouraging greater investment – and that means cashflow. This is where banks come in – and we need to understand both the business and the business plan.
We also need to understand that all businesses are different. Everyone knows the iconic Scottish brands – whisky, smoked salmon, seafood, cheese – but there are countless other products and businesses with their own specialist requirements. As food and drink companies target new export markets and the business grows, so do the pressures – for example, receiving payments in currencies like the euro.
The food and drink industry is full of innovative, imaginative businesses. With the right support, from government and banks, the sector can play a significant part in stimulating recovery.
• Graham Blair is area Director (Scotland North) for Bank of Scotland, sponsor of Scottish Food & Drink 2012 next Wednesday: www.scotsmanconferences.com
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