Welcoming the news that Scottish food and drink exports had grown by £421 million in 2016, to a record level of £5.5 billion, NFU Scotland’s chief executive Scott Walker, said that the figures would be used by politicians of all colours to back their views.
“Some will use it to show that Brexit is a threat to the industry and without unburdened access to the EU single market we have much to lose,” he said.
“Others will use it show that unburdened from European Union ties we have fantastic foundations to build on and that we can only grow more successful.”
However, Walker added: “But few will point out that while the food and drink industry may be booming, this success is not being felt by our farmers and crofters.”
He said that the success of the sector was built around the quality of the nation’s food and drink and its strong Scottish provenance – all underpinned by the farmers, growers and crofters of Scotland who were the start of the food chain.
Walker argued that, with the new strategy for the country’s food and drink sector being unveiled later this week, there was a need to ensure that farming’s voice was heard, especially as new agricultural policy unfolded.
“Difficult decisions are ahead,” he said. “Different paths may be chosen but the one that I would like is the one that sees Scottish farming and crofting grow. The path that leads to more being produced on Scottish farms and what we produce by being profitable.”
He said that schemes like the Scottish Beef Efficiency Scheme could help the industry grow while greening could become a measure which promoted the good environmental credentials of Scotland rather than constraining production.
“Let’s concentrate not on what has happened but on how we can shape the future,” concluded Walker.
• The importance of securing trade deals which uphold the high standards of British food production were emphasised yesterday in the wake of a major scandal surrounding meat exports from Brazil.
Allegations that Brazil’s biggest meat processors had been selling rotten beef and poultry for years – much of it destined for EU countries – were taken up by the NFU to highlight the risks of poorly thought out trade deals.
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said the scandal was a reminder that the best way for consumers to ensure they were buying safe, fresh, quality, and tasty produce was to buy food which was clearly labeled as Scottish.
“Our farmers work hard to meet high quality production standards, and our supply chains are fully traceable,” McCornick said.
“Looking towards Brexit, Scottish farmers and crofters need reassurances from the UK government that it will not negotiate trade deals which trade away our high standards of production and welfare.”