A plan designed to help Scotland’s food and drink sector mitigate the impact of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic has been drawn up by the Scottish Government alongside the industry.
The strategy sets out 50 actions to try and stimulate demand for Scottish produce in key markets and supporting businesses to capitalise on increased demand.
Rural Economy and Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing described the food and drink industry as one of the “true success stories of Scotland’s economy”, with record-high exports last year worth an estimated £6.7 billion.
But the industry predicts revenue is facing a hit of up to £3 billion this year and the Scottish Government has warned of the potential impact of Brexit when the transition period ends at the end of 2020.
The plan aims to mitigate and reverse damage caused by coronavirus and Brexit uncertainty, as well as helping the industry become more environmentally sustainable and resilient.
It will receive £5 million of funding from the Scottish Government and anticipates £3 million of private investment up to 2023.
In a report outlining the strategy, Mr Ewing wrote: “This plan will have to remain flexible and agile more than ever, so being collaborative in how we work will be critical.
“As industry bodies in Scotland, supported by the Scottish Government, we’re up for that challenge and look forward to working hand in hand with our talented, resilient businesses in the sector to make it happen.”
Commenting on the strategy, he added: “Food and drink businesses have shown remarkable resilience and innovation in responding to the pandemic, from finding new routes to market themselves or in the actions they have taken to support their workforce and keep food on our tables.
“However, in addition to the many challenges presented by Covid-19, we now need to prepare for the disruption and uncertainty the end of the Brexit transition period will bring in just six weeks’ time.
“This funding commitment will enable Scotland Food & Drink and industry partners to come together to work on fairer, greener and sustainable solutions to the challenges that lie ahead.
“Scotland is home to much of the world’s greatest produce and we must do all we can to protect and promote it.”
Scotland Food & Drink chief executive James Withers said: “2020 has been a year like no other. The trauma wreaked by Covid-19 has affected all of us and following that earthquake comes the next great disrupter: Brexit.
“But despite this volatile and uncertain world, Scotland’s food and drink sector remains resilient and full of talented and dedicated people that will help drive the recovery.
“The plan announced today brings together industry and the Scottish Government in an agreed strategy of tangible action to stimulate demand in domestic and international markets. It also supports businesses to take advantage of opportunities, recover from Covid-19 and, as far as is possible, navigate Brexit.”