Stephen Jardine: Summit showcase for Scots seafood

Stephen Jardine talks about the 18th World Gourmet Summit in Singapore
Stephen Jardine. Picture: Jon SavageStephen Jardine. Picture: Jon Savage
Stephen Jardine. Picture: Jon Savage

If PROOF was needed of Scotland’s amazing food and drink success story, it is on the table right now in the Far East. The 18th World Gourmet Summit is under way in Singapore, bringing together top chefs from around the globe who demonstrate their skills using the very best produce available.

This year, for the first time, Scottish seafood is taking centre stage.

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Between 2007 and 2012, Scottish seafood exports to Asia surged by 247 per cent to a value of £31.76 million. The huge rise is a result of demand from the region’s top chefs and their customers for top-quality, luxury products. Those figures may look impressive, but Scotland is just scratching the surface.

Just this week the Food and Drink Federation revealed a jump in exports, led by a 5 per cent increase in Scottish salmon sales overseas. In just one year, Scottish salmon exports to China doubled, from £23m to £50m.

The growing army of affluent consumers in the Far East is prepared to pay for high-quality produce from pristine waters, and Scotland is seen to deliver just that. At a popular restaurant in Singapore recently, I watched hungry diners choose their dinner from vast tanks teeming with local fish. But many were tucking into what the menu hailed as “Steamed Live Scottish Royal Razor Clams”. What made them royal I’m not sure, but the chef assured me they were 100 per cent Scottish and fresh every week.

Making sure Scotland makes the most of this interest is a consortium backed by the big names in the business. The Scottish Seafood Collaborative Group is a partnership of Seafood Scotland, the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation and Scottish Development International. This week, it is on the ground in Singapore showcasing the best we have to offer.

Roy Brett, from Ondine Restaurant in Edinburgh, has been selected as the only British chef to cook at this year’s event and has salmon, langoustines, crab and lobster on his menus.

Air freight logistics mean seafood can make that journey from Scotland to Singapore in the same time it takes to reach the supermarket shelves at home, but we also need to tell our story well to communicate what makes our produce so special. Ambassadors from the seafood industry are doing just that in Singapore this weekend.

The potential benefits back home are huge. As the seafood sector grows to meet demand, we will see more investment and jobs, often in remote areas with fragile economies. There is also likely to be a spin-off in food tourism, with those who love the produce exploring where it comes from.

But nothing can be taken for granted. The Canadians and the Scandinavians also have their eyes on the Far East market, so missions like the one this week are vital to ensure Scotland gets a healthy share of business.