Scotland is renowned as a land of food and drink, and our cuisine is increasingly sought after on dining tables around the world.
One look at our export figures highlights just what a success story food and drink has been for Scotland. Last year, exports reached a record high of £5.4bn, meaning that our target to increase exports to £5.1bn by 2017 was surpassed six years early.
Undoubtedly, the major reason for this success has been the high quality of the produce on offer. We have an incredible natural larder at our disposal, and our reputation for having clear air and fresh water makes us the envy of many.
But the success of our food and drink industry has not happened by accident. We’ve worked hard to capitalise on the resources we have on our doorstep, targeting emerging markets such as Asia and the Middle East, without neglecting existing market places. Scotland is a regular exhibitor at major trade fairs, such as Anuga, the world’s leading food fair.
We have also provided support for Scottish farmers and producers to help them meet current and future demand, and be able to exploit the potential of their own products rather than simply exporting the raw ingredients.
Our heavy investment in skills ensures we have a workforce capable of meeting the challenges ahead. This includes investing in apprenticeships. Four years ago, there were fewer than 100 apprentices working in the food and drink sector; today, there are more than 1,000.
I’m confident that the Scottish government is spearheading a recipe for success when it comes to our food and drink sector. And I’m sure that our produce, whether it is iconic whisky and haggis, seafood or fruit and vegetables, will continue to be sought after both at home and abroad.
Richard Lochhead MSP is the Scottish government’s rural affairs and environment secretary