Scots food and drink sector unshaken by Brexit

Brexit has failed to shake Scotland's 'bullish' food and drink sector as half of firms said they raised growth estimates after the European Union (EU) referendum.

Scotland Food & Drink chief James Withers said the sector shows 'real ambition'. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The fifth annual Bank of Scotland food and drink report surveyed 100 manufacturers across the country in the weeks after the vote.

Researchers found half of those surveyed said the result led them to raise business growth estimates while 25 per cent dropped estimates.

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A total of 42 per cent plan to create more jobs following the referendum result. Overall, firms expect to create a net average of 50 jobs by 2021, up three from last year.

However, four in ten companies identified leaving the EU as the biggest challenge facing the sector in the next five years, followed by overseas competition (30 per cent).

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Further findings indicated confidence within the industry as firms expect to increase turnover by an average of 24 per cent over the next five years, up 5 per cent on 2015.

Businesses plan to invest an average of 56 per cent of their current annual turnover in the same period, a marked increase on last year’s 40 per cent figure.

More than two-thirds (69 per cent) of Scottish firms expect to engage new international customers over the next five years, up 7 per cent on 2015.

Jane Clark-Hutchison, central Scotland mid-markets regional director at Bank of Scotland, said the industry target of £16.5 billion turnover by 2017 seems “entirely achievable”. She added: “It’s incredibly heartening that, just weeks after the EU referendum result, our survey shows that bullish food and drink firms expect to grow, invest, recruit and innovate.”

Scotland Food & Drink chief executive James Withers said: “There is real ambition in the Scottish food and drink sector that has driven a 40 per cent growth in turnover since 2007.