Brexit caution as Scotland's food and drink exports hit record £6bn

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Rural Secretary Fergus Ewing have warned a hard Brexit could affect Scotland's food exports
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Rural Secretary Fergus Ewing have warned a hard Brexit could affect Scotland's food exports

Overseas Scottish food and drink exports were worth approximately £6 billion in 2017, an increase of almost £570 million more than 2016, according to new statistics.

Food exports were valued at about £1.6 billion – a rise of 15% (£214 million) during the same period. Exports of food to Europe were worth £1.1 billion after an increase of 13%, or £125 million.

Fish and seafood accounted for the majority of food exports and were worth approximately £944 million, up 23% from last year. Scotch Whisky exports also increased by around £356 million compared to 2016.

Scotland's Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing, said agri-food exports are at an "all-time high".



However, he said the continued pursuit of hard Brexit by the UK government is a "major threat" to Scotland's success in food and drink.

Mr Ewing said: “The statistics highlight the importance of the EU single market to our food and drink success, with the EU buying more than 40% of our produce.



“The continuing uncertainty surrounding the UK Government’s Brexit plans, and the prospect of losing tariff free access to that market would be potentially devastating for our food and drink industry.

“Confirmation by the UK Government that it wants devolved powers over food labelling to transfer to them creates further risk and uncertainty, when much of our success depends on our ability to market Scottish produce and provenance effectively.

“That’s potentially a huge problem in the long term to our food and drink sector, who share our ambition for further expansion, and to protect our national brands.”

The Scottish government said it has ambitions to double the value of the food and drink industry to £30 billion by 2030.

James Withers, Chief Executive of Scotland Food & Drink, said the world is "increasingly developing a taste" for Scottish produce.

“A few years ago, reaching £6 billion in annual export sales was just an ambition. However, industry leadership and a crucial partnership with government has made it a reality,” Mr Withers said.