£4.5m food and drink overseas sales boost

Richard Lochhead, left, with chef and restaurateur Tom Kitchin. Picture: Neil Hanna
Richard Lochhead, left, with chef and restaurateur Tom Kitchin. Picture: Neil Hanna
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A NEW £4.5 million plan to drive up the sale of Scottish food and drink products will target 15 overseas markets.

Developed jointly by the industry and government, the aim of the Export Plan is for food sales to emulate the success of the whisky industry, which accounts for the vast bulk of food and drink sales overseas.

Growth has been rapid and there is an expectation that it will accelerate further this year as the eyes of the world focus on Scotland’s year of sporting and cultural events.

In 2007, food and drink sales were worth £10 billion, about the same as in the previous five years. The industry aimed for £12.5bn by 2017, but it is already at £13bn and a new target of £16.5bn has been set. Exports are up by 50 per cent in five years and the current £5.4bn has been revised to £7bn by 2017.

However, the vast bulk of these “exports” are to the rest of the UK and the industry and government want to see more markets opening up overseas.

A team of “global experts” will be sent to seven main markets: France, Germany, Hong Kong, the Middle East, North America, Japan and south-east Asia.

The Scotland Food & Drink Partnership – comprising the Scottish Government, Scotland Food & Drink, Scotland Development International and the main exporting trade associations – has drawn up the strategy, with each partner contributing towards the funding.

Richard Lochhead, the cabinet secretary with responsibility for food and drink, said: “The sector has experienced tremendous growth in recent years. In fact, if the current rate of growth continues then we will have an export rate similar to that of the North Sea oil and gas industry.”

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, said the scheme will help the rest of the sector follow the success of whisky.

He said: “It will create a level of support for overseas trade that the food and drink industry in Scotland hasn’t seen before and I’m confident by 2017 we will have doubled our export trade over a decade.”