PLANS TO accelerate the growth of Scotland’s fruit and veg sector will be the focus of a new industry group – led by former NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie.
The value of the Scottish fruit and veg sector has grown significantly over the last 10 years, with fruit production increasing by 86% to £114 million, and vegetables up 50% to £122 million.
The new Fruit and Veg Industry Leadership Group aims to develop the first sectoral ‘Action Plan’ to capitalise on market opportunities, including the impact of Brexit, complementing Scotland’s new food and drink strategy, Ambition 2030, which aims to double the turnover of the industry to £30 billion by 2030.
Announcing the group’s formation at the Royal Highland Show, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “There is huge potential within our fruit and vegetable sector. Since 2007 the industry has enjoyed fantastic growth, with exports almost trebling to £68 million.
“We can grow the industry further through increasing consumption, displacing imports and continuing to build upon Scotland’s growing reputation in export markets. By growing our fruit and veg sector we can also benefit from potential environmental and health benefits, through increased consumption of locally sourced food.
“This new group, which for the first time brings together all key representatives across the sector, will identify the specific actions needed to overcome any barriers to growth, develop new market opportunities, and address issues facing the sector, not least the implications of Brexit and access to labour,” said Mr Ewing.
“It marks an important step for the future of our fruit and veg sector and I look forward to working with all parties to develop the Action Plan.”
Newly appointed chair Mr Bowie said: “I am hugely enthusiastic and optimistic about Scotland’s fruit and vegetable sector so it is great to be able to play my part in establishing a roadmap for its future. The sector is already hugely important to the wider food and drink sector and Scotland’s economy but by bringing the sector’s leaders round the table, I believe we can unlock new opportunities to the benefit of growers and processors and, ultimately, the health and wellbeing of Scotland’s population.
“The real work begins now and we want to forge a strong partnership between the industry, government and its agencies to unlock the full potential of the fruit and vegetable sector and achieve sustainable growth.”
Scotland Food and Drink chief executive James Withers, commented: “This is the first time representatives from across the fruit and vegetable sector will be brought together to develop a long-term, ambitious roadmap for the future. It was only two months ago we launched Ambition 2030, the food and drink industry’s strategy for 2030.
“It is now a great opportunity to see how the key themes of that strategy – of skills, innovation, supply chain and market development – can be focused on delivering for our hugely valuable fruit and vegetable sector. The twin opportunity here is to drive profitable growth for every part of the supply chain, whilst also trying to drive increased consumption of healthy Scottish products.”