Food and drink industry seeks political support

Scotland’s food and drink producers need time to get back on their feet in the wake of Covid-19 restrictions and the consequences of Brexit, the sector’s trade body has warned.

With an annual turnover of around £11 billion the sector provides more than 47,000 jobs, making it a cornerstone of the country’s economy - and yesterday the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) of Scotland issued a call in advance of the Holyrood elections to avoid the introduction of any policies and legislation that would harm the food and drink industry.

“Instead we want to work in partnership with parliamentarians to support Scotland’s food and drink manufacturers to get back on their feet now and thrive into the future,” said FDF Scotland's Chief Executive Officer, David Thomson.

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He said that the federation wanted a framework which provided the stability needed to help the sector recover from the twin blows of coronavirus and Brexit and allow it to return to growth.

The call formed part of the organisation’s pre-election manifesto for Scotland’s food and drink manufacturers for 2021 and beyond.

Key asks from any new administration include: supporting the growth of the food and drink industry; achieving a more environmentally sustainable Scotland; supporting healthier choices in communities across Scotland: and investing in people, skills and innovation.

“Scotland’s food and drink companies need time to recover from the devastating impacts of Covid-19 and the changes that have been brought about by the UK’s new relationship with the EU,” said Thomson.

“As well as a moratorium on legislation which hurts food and drink businesses, FDF Scotland asks for continued funding for the recovery of the industry over the coming years.”

The organisation also called on MSPs to ensure future dietary health policy was evidence-based and supported Scotland’s people and food and drink industry.

“It has been a challenging time for our food and drink businesses. As well as being fully focused on keeping their employees safe and feeding the nation, they are now getting to grips with the changes involved in exporting their products to the EU,” said Thomson.

“To do that, businesses need stable ground to recover and grow. We ask the next Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government not to put in place punitive policies and legislation that will harm the food and drink industry.”

At the other end of the farming supply chain, the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) which provides inputs such as seed, feed and fertiliser also issued its manifesto for the election, calling for the opportunity for the trade to play a full role in the country’s ‘green recovery’.

This included better recognition of the key role played by the sector in the provision of advice and education and knowledge transfer, along with properly thought-through environmental measures which avoided negative economic consequences:

“Economic and environmental sustainability are inextricably linked – support for active and productive farmers to enable their contribution to sustainability outcomes is key,” said the AIC’s Scottish policy manager, Ian Muirhead, who added:

“We support protecting existing funding levels for agriculture.”