Dairy group hopes to milk a global surge in demand

A NEW dairy strategy group which will look at establishing new market opportunities both at home and abroad has been set up this week, with Scotland Food & Drink chief executive James Withers saying there was a need to forge a new direction for the Scottish dairy industry

The group also includes the Scottish Government, Scottish Development International, NFU Scotland and Dairy UK, and showing part of its intent, the SDI representation at the meeting included people from its offices in China and Japan.

Withers said there had never been a better time to look abroad, with the global appetite for dairy products being twinned with Scotland’s growing reputation for food and drink.

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“We need to be ambitious and challenge the current ways of working if we are to drive added value right through the chain,” he said. “That means building a new, international platform for the Scottish industry and capitalising on growing customer loyalty at home.”

For Dairy UK’s Scottish director Kirk Hunter, seizing a bigger share of growing world dairy market had to be a key focus for the Scottish dairy industry.

“Scotland has the capability to develop the necessary competitive edge – world class milk producers, a well invested and diverse processing sector, a range of well-respected brands, existing healthy export sales and the strong foundation of the domestic market,” he said.

Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said it would provide a clear focus on how, by working together, the industry could maximise its undoubted potential.

NFU Scotland vice-president Allan Bowie pointed to the “huge natural advantages Scotland had when it came to the production of milk”.

He added: “Our producers operate on a scale and with a level of efficiency that puts them in the premier league world-wide.”

The next meeting of the group in August will consider a detailed paper on where the best opportunities exist.