Food and drink companies across Scotland are recovering from the challenges of the pandemic and Brexit with manufacturers taking advantage of new trading relationships around the world, according to new research.
Contrary to stark warnings of meltdown from lockdowns and Border trade bureaucracy, Scotland, Wales and the North East of England, had the strongest recovery in response to the supply chain problems caused by COVID and the new UK-EU trading relationship.
The share of exports to non-EU markets is increasing in Scotland, and there are big opportunities to drive further export growth through new trade deals with increased market access, the report from the Food and Drink Federation has found.
However, it states that more can be done to improve the implementation of the UK-EU trade agreement, to help companies recover exports in the EU alongside growing market share in other global markets.
The report shows that Scotland accounts for the largest share of UK food and drink exports at almost 30% of total exports. Worth £5.7bn exports are up by nearly 15% since 2020.
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Scotland’s recovery has largely been driven by a strong growth in exports of beverages and seafood products, together accounting for £5.2bn of total Scottish exports.
France is now Scotland’s largest export partner, worth more than £1bn, and exports to China nearly doubled in 2021 to just under £225m.
Separate data from HMRC shows that Scottish salmon is the UK’s biggest fresh food export, with overseas sales increasing to £614m in 2021 – up 36% compared to 2020 and only marginally below the £618m recorded in 2019.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not factored into the FDF report, and its full impact on the UK’s exports and on the global supply chains is yet to emerge.
FDF Scotland’s chief executive, David Thomson, said: “Scotland continues to punch above its weight.
“It’s heartening to see an increase in Scotland’s food and drink exports as the industry begins to recover from the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit. We hope that new opportunities will help further increase sales of Scotland’s food and drink abroad.
“We will continue to work with Scottish and UK governments and partners from across the food chain to support the recovery and growth of our vital industry.”
Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “Scotland’s food and drink producers not only play a major role in our economy, these figures demonstrate that their high-quality products are being increasingly enjoyed by consumers across the world.
“I am always delighted to see Scottish food and drink products do well on the international stage and I would like to congratulate everyone involved in this significant achievement.
“These figures are set against the backdrop of significant challenges presented by the double blow of a global pandemic and Brexit and it is testament to the resilience of our producers and the quality of their products that the sector continues to make such a strong recovery.”