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Scottish Food and Drink Exports at Record High

bottle of whiskey laying on a wooden table with two glasses filled with whiskey.

Food and drink exports from Scotland reached a record high last year, according to new figures released by the government.

Significant growth in several sectors helped the total figure to rise to £5.5 billion in 2016.

Huge Growth Spurts

This is certainly something for Scottish producers to be proud of. The huge growth spurts are unprecedented, showing that Scottish food is becoming more popular around the world.

Whole fish on ice

Seafood and whisky were the main driving factors in the growth, which took an 8% year-on-year rise of £421 million overall.

Those in ingredients jobs clearly prefer to purchase Scottish-reared and caught, with fish and seafood sales going up by £156 million. This took them to a year total of £759 million. Whisky exports, meanwhile, were up £153 million or 4% on 2015, giving them a total of £4 billion sales yearly.

Scottish industry leaders have also highlighted the importance of the European market, as exports to EU countries were up by £133 million to a total worth of £2.3 billion.

The supply chain has definitely been treating Scotland well. This growth is a huge boon for the economy, which ensures that jobs are preserved and opens up the possibility of further growth and more jobs becoming available.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: "Since this government came into office, the value of food exports has more than doubled. Food and drink is now one of the standout success stories in our economy, increasing growth and supporting jobs across the country. Our produce has an excellent reputation around the world and it's clear the industry is going from strength to strength. Scotland's food and drink sector is in fantastic health, and next week's strategy launch will outline how we plan to support the industry to build upon this success and further grow the sector to 2030."

Political Overshadowing

Naturally, authority figures have been using the growth in EU sales as a sign of political hardship to come. There is much concern at the moment about the possibility of a Scottish referendum, which would be a way for Scottish producers to hang on to their trade agreements without negative backlash from EU suppliers. There has also previously been some worry about the retention of location-based naming rules, such as the Scotch whisky which can only come from Scotland, once ties with the EU are broken.

Ewing added, "These figures show the importance of retaining access to the vital European markets, which are currently worth £2.3bn to the sector, and represent our largest export market. We shouldn't have to face the choice between remaining as part of the UK and the EU single market. The pursuit of a hard Brexit is a major threat to this success and these figures show why we must work to protect Scotland's place in Europe.”

But James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, is looking further afield.

He says, "We are clear we want to internationalise our food industry, following in the footsteps of our greatest export, Scotch whisky. We have now doubled food exports since 2007, transforming the level of trade in growing markets like Asia. That is crucial to extend our footprint beyond just Europe, which is still the destination for over 70% of our food exports.”

David Williamson, of the Scotch Whisky Association, cautioned: "Scotch Whisky continues to be the most significant part of this success, with overseas shipments making up around three-quarters of total food and drink exports. But we need support from governments as we deal with the challenges and opportunities ahead, including Brexit."