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CEO's Blog 20 March 2017

Scott Walker

Food and drink exports from Scotland are again being hailed as a great success story.  Last year a record £5.5 billion was exported.  This creates wealth for Scotland and jobs.  Around one fifth of all the manufacturing jobs in Scotland are part of the food industry.

The success of the industry is built around the quality of the food and drink produced and its strong Scottish provenance.  And of course this is all underpinned by the farmers, growers and crofters of Scotland who are the start of the food chain producing the products that start our very successful food and drink industry.

Our success will be celebrated by Scottish politicians and UK politicians all of whom will use it in different ways.  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.  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.  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.

This week Scotland Food and Drink will unveil its new strategy for the food and drink industry to take us to 2030.  We will await to see what it contains when it is unveiled on Thursday. One thing we can be certain of is that it will be ambitious.   And ambitious is what we must be as we look to choose our future.  NFU Scotland will continue to push to ensure that farming and crofting is considered by the Scottish Government and the UK Government as Brexit unfolds.  We will continue to push that as a new agricultural policy is developed it is focused on production and delivering profitable agriculture.

Difficult decisions are ahead.  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.  The likes of the Scottish Beef Efficiency Scheme could be transformed into a scheme that grows our industry; greening could become a measure that promotes the good environmental credentials of Scotland rather than constraining production; and new partnerships in the supply chain could deliver better financial returns to farmers.  As the record £5.5 billion of food and drink exports are celebrated let’s concentrate not on what has happened but on how we can shape the future.

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