Scotland’s food and drink exports have grown by more than 10 per cent in a year, new figures show.
Food and drink worth £1.2 billion was exported in the first three months of 2017, up £124 million (11 per cent) on the same period in 2016.
Scotch whisky and Scottish salmon topped the UK export chart in the first quarter of 2017, comprising 22 per cent of the value of total food and drink exports from the UK.
Scotland’s national drink was the highest value export at £875.8 million, up £79 million (9.9 per cent) year-on-year, while total food exports were up £45.5 million (14 per cent).
Fish and seafood was the largest food sector, up £48.3 million (30.8 per cent).
Exports of animal feed jumped by 56.5 per cent to £34.5 million and dairy and eggs rose by 40.4 per cent to £21.7 million, but cereal exports fell 42.6 per cent to £32.3 million while live animals and meat both dropped £0.3 million, down 2.1 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively.
The European Union remains Scotland’s largest regional export market outside of the UK, with exports growing by £50 million.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said the figures underlined the need for Scottish involvement in Brexit negotiations.
He said: “2016 was a record year for Scotland’s food and drink exports and these new figures clearly show that the sector is going from strength to strength.
“What is clear from these figures is that maintaining access to the EU single market is crucial for our food and drink producers and our wider economy.
“Losing access will put Scottish industry at a significant disadvantage, exposing business to damaging export tariff barriers and regulatory requirements.
“The Prime Minister must include the Scottish Government at the Brexit negotiating table, with the starting point for any new approach the continued membership of the Single Market and Customs Union.”
Mr Ewing’s UK counterpart, Michael Gove, said the UK Government will use Brexit “to develop new trade relationships” that benefit Scottish food producers.
Speaking ahead of a visit to the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh next week, he said: “Our ambition is for the UK to become a truly global trading nation and there are great opportunities for Scotland’s most celebrated exports such as Scotch, salmon and gin to take advantage of the growing interest in British food and drink around the world.
“As we prepare to leave the EU, we are determined to develop new trade relationships that benefit Scottish farmers and food producers - and I look forward to discussing these opportunities at the Royal Highland Show.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell will join Mr Gove in finding out how the UK Government can deliver for Scottish agriculture and hosting a gin reception.
He said: “We are clear that we will protect and promote the interests of Scotland’s farming community as we leave the EU.
“We have made clear that current funding arrangements will continue until 2020, and I hope that these payments will reach Scottish farmers efficiently.”