Scotland and Wales launch plans to help food sector weather 'uncertain times'

By David Burrows

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/MarianVejcik
© iStock/MarianVejcik

Related tags Global food production Food United kingdom

Scotland and Wales have launched ambitious new plans to help power their food industries through the years of uncertainty that are expected now the UK has begun the process of leaving the EU.

In Wales, there’s a new €24million (£21m) programme designed to create 370 new jobs and safeguard 2,000 more over the next five years.

Our aim is to put Wales on the global food and drink map,” ​said Professor David Lloyd from Cardiff Metropolitan University’s Zero2Five Food Industry Centre, one of the partners involved in the research.

'Project Helix', as it’s been dubbed, will help fund research into global food production, trends and waste to help small and medium-sized manufacturers boost production and improve efficiency. New products and start-ups will be “fast-tracked”,​ with a particular focus on those developed in response to health and well-being challenges.

The initiative – designed to push the Welsh food and drink industry towards its growth target of 30% from 2014 to 2020 – will also  “take into consideration new challenges and opportunities facing the industry as a result of the UK’s decision to leave the EU”.

In Scotland meanwhile there’s the new plan with similar goals. 'Ambition 2030' is based on three key pillars – skills, supply chain collaboration and innovation – to help cement food and drink as Scotland’s most valuable industry, said James Withers, chief executive at Scotland Food & Drink.

“Too few view our industry as a top career choice, many farmers feel detached from the success story and we can do more to support improvements in Scotland’s health,” ​he explained.

Food and drink is currently worth €16.6bn (£14.4bn) in Scotland but there’s a new target to double that to €35bn (£30bn) by 2030. The home market – Scottish consumers and tourists – will remain vital, but following research into global trends the country’s brands will also be targeting London and overseas markets with premium products.

“Political upheavals, like Brexit, bring uncertainty. They always do,” the plan reads​. “But we can’t sit back and wait for calmer waters. Our competitors won’t do that. The key is to plan around what we do know, what we can control, to remain agile.”

The Scottish government also announced €11.5m (£10m) of fresh funding to target key markets, boost innovation and promote food and drink as a “career destination”. ​The food and drink sector in Scotland has enjoyed “phenomenal success”​ in the past decade but these are “uncertain times“​ said the first minister Nicola Sturgeon. Revoking the free movement of people, for instance, could have a “profound impact on our food and drink sector”,​ she explained.

Research published by Rabobank this week forecast that the price of food imported from the EU is likely to increase by up to 8% by the time the UK leaves the union.

The report – Weighing up Future Food Security in the UK: The Impact of the Brexit on F&A in Europe and Beyond – ​assesses three different future tariff scenarios, as well as other factors that will have an impact on food businesses in the UK and the EU, such as further weakening of the pound sterling and the movement of workers.


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