A new £3 million scheme has been launched to help Scottish food and drink businesses to build upon the success of the sector by strengthening the local food and drink supply chain.Connect Local, Scotland’s local food and drink marketing advisory service, was launched publicly today, on Scotland’s national day, by the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing.Connect Local will build connections between local producers and entrepreneurs, micro-businesses and SMEs by offering specialist advice for enterprises with limited experience of marketing local food and drink. It will work to improve communication within the supply chain to help deliver stronger working practices between farmers, suppliers, processors, sellers and consumers.The programme will boost economic growth by unlocking domestic markets within the Scottish food and drink sector, which employs around 116,000 people and has annual turnover of £14.3 billion.The service includes a specialist programme focusing on seafood, funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Scottish Government. The seafood element is being delivered through Seafood Scotland and supported by the wider collaboration for the service involving SAC Consulting (part of Scotland’s Rural College), SAOS and Scotland Food & Drink.
International reputation for qualitySpeaking at a visit to Contini’s Cannonball Restaurant in Edinburgh, Mr Ewing said Scotland’s food and drink has an 'international reputation for quality' and is 'enjoyed around the world'. He said: “It is one of our real economic success stories, accounting for 21% of all businesses in Scotland, and generating an annual turnover of £14.3 billion.“However, we recognise even greater opportunities in the domestic food and drink market and I want to see more businesses taking advantage of the wonderful produce available on their doorstep. Brexit is by far the biggest threat to Scotland’s jobs, prosperity and economy and we have always been clear that remaining members of the EU, and the Single Market, is the best option for our future.“New services like Connect Local are supporting the sector to continue as normal so that Scotland continues to be an attractive and a stable place to do business through fostering partnerships between our producers and retailers, and is building local networks to support the growth of more of these relationships. Is it great news they are now supporting Scottish seafood producers, which will open up more pathways to market for this vital and world renowned sector.Mr Ewing concluded: “Together we will change behaviour in food and drink production and distribution by increasing the options for local producers to access domestic markets.”