Scotland’s efforts to build a strong global reputation for food and drink have been “transformational” and a key part of the country’s economic strategy.

Speaking at the World Congress of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalist (IFAJ) in Aberdeen, James Withers chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink said the success was down to having a simple, well supported plan.

The aim is to grow food and drink from Scotland to a £16.5 Bn business within the next three years through domestic and export sales.

Mr Withers’ agency coordinates the plan, which is funded by 350 industry members and backed by a Scottish cabinet with many ministers who come from strong agricultural backgrounds.

He explained that dedicated food and drink specialists now operate in key markets to drive exports up to a new target of £7.6 Bn by 2017.  Around 80 per cent of Scottish food exports currently go to Europe but the biggest opportunity is in emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil and Russia. 

Improving Scotland’s food identity required collaboration and a story around provenance, he said.  “New Zealand and Ireland are doing very well in this area and so we are learning from them,” he added.  “We are a nation of small businesses with fantastic natural assets and we are proving we can build sales by getting well organised.”

Whisky exports, for example, had exceeded all expectations reaching £4bn in sales with 34 bottles shipped worldwide every second.  The scale of the global market for whisky surpasses cognac and champagne.

Mr Withers is keen to see primary sectors like farming and fishing return to growth and profit in Scotland, but he sees this as a major challenge with the decline in livestock herds and flocks.