Scottish food and drink firms fly flag for UK with bumper exports but outlook cautious

Scottish food and drink companies are making a strong recovery from the pandemic and challenges caused by Brexit with exports surging 15 per cent in 2021, according to new data.

By Perry Gourley
Monday, 9th May 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Monday, 9th May 2022, 9:28 am

The latest overseas trade figures from the Food and Drink Federation also confirmed Scotland accounts for the largest share of UK food and drink exports at almost 30 per cent of the sector’s total overseas trade.

However, although firms have recovered significant lost ground the figures are still down on the £6 billion-plus achieved pre-Covid and the latest data also doesn’t include the impact of the Ukraine crisis.

Scotland’s £5.7bn worth of exports during the year were mainly accounted for by strong showings from drink – including whisky – and seafood products, with both up 16 per cent. France is now Scotland’s largest export partner, overtaking the USA, with exports there now worth more than £1bn.

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The FDF said the latest figures also highlighted how manufacturers are taking advantage of new trading relationships around the world and the organisation’s Scotland chief executive David Thomson said Scotland was continuing 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,” he said.

The FDF urged more to be done to improve the implementation of the UK-EU trade agreement to help companies make further progress in the recovery of exports in the EU alongside growing market share in other global markets.

It also said the industry is yet to fully understand the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on exports and on global supply chains.

Brands such as Walkers shortbread make a major contribution to Scotland's food and drink export success.

Responding to the report, Scotland’s rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon welcomed the nation’s strong performance.

“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,” she said.

Recent figures from the Scotch Whisky Association showed global exports of the spirit grew to £4.51bn during 2021 but remain below pre-Covid levels.