Cauld Kail


  By Derek Bateman
Incidentally, I saw Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, told the Huffington Post: “Food prices are rising already.  Scotland hasn’t got the most benign of climates to do business.  Scots are heavily dependent on importing food into Scotland and therefore highly likely to be food insecure unless they dramatically alter what they eat and how they get it.  The supermarkets here are rattling their cages. Scots would be well advised to start thinking about their own food security.”  Eh?

Has the prof been keeping up to date?  Here’s some recent research:

The boom in the Scottish food and drink sector looks set to continue as the latest Bank of Scotland research reveals that the £12bn industry will be ramping up investment and creating jobs to target new export markets over the next five years.

The Bank of Scotland report, An Appetite for Growth: Ambition and Opportunity for Scotland’s food and drink industry, which launched today, surveyed a broad cross section of over 100 Scottish food and drink businesses with an estimated aggregate turnover of £6 billion.  The results help to cement the industry’s position as one of Scotland’s fastest-growing sectors.

A mean five-year growth expectation of 19% has been reported by respondents looking to expand.

The Global Connections Survey (GCS) provides estimates of rest of the UK and overseas food and drink manufacturing exports from Scotland.  The latest GCS estimates that total food and drink manufacturing exports from Scotland increased by £2.9 billion (59%) between 2002 and 2011, from a value of £4.9 billion in 2002 to £7.7 billion in 2011.  Food and drink exports to the rest of the world continue to represent a larger share of overall exports, accounting for 55% of total food and drink exports from Scotland in 2011.

Food manufacturing exports accounted for 76% of Scotland’s total food and drink manufactured exports to the rest of the UK in 2011.

Or this from Scottish Development International:

Scotland’s booming food and drink industry generates over £7.5billion per year for the country’s economy, and accounts for 27 per cent manufacturing exports.  The industry comprises in excess of 1500 companies, including famous global brands and small, speciality firms.

In the world of fruit and vegetables Scottish producers now grow 2,400 tonnes of raspberries and 4,600 tonnes of strawberries each year.  Impressive though this is its nothing next to our potato output: over a million tonnes, cultivated on more than 3,700 holdings in Scotland, mean that the spud business is worth over £100 million a year to Scotland!

Poultry is thriving too: today approximately 900 million eggs are produced annually in Scotland, with a value of over £30 million and there are approximately 4 million egg-producing hens and 10 million chickens for meat in the country.

Dairy has always been a major industry in Scotland and now produces around 1,300 million litres of milk, worth more than £230 million.

But beef is bigger than all of these.  Scottish beef has become synonymous with quality for today’s top chefs and we produce nearly 30% of the UK’s breeding cattle.  Beef is now the single most important sector of Scottish agriculture, worth around £400 million a year: more than fruit, dairy and poultry combined!

Scotland’s climate and geography are also well suited to cheese making.  Today there are more than two dozen cheese-makers across Scotland, ranging from the industrial cheddar creameries to much smaller-scale cheese producers.  The last two decades have seen a huge revival in traditional farmhouse cheeses and new versions inspired in some cases by the soft and flavourful cheeses found in Europe and elsewhere.

However, the real jewel in Scotland’s food crown is arguably her fish market.  Today there are nearly 200 shellfish farming companies are based in Scotland and Peterhead near Aberdeen has become the largest white fish landing port in Europe.  Commercial fish farming now accounts for about 50% (in monetary terms) of all Scottish food exports – generating around £500 million per annum.

Special mention must go to the King of fish, the salmon. Salmon farming is the most important economic development in the Highlands and Islands over the past 30 years, and the retail sales value of Scottish salmon is around £300 million per annum.  Scotland is the world’s third largest producer of Atlantic salmon and enjoys a reputation for quality fresh and added-value products such as smoked salmon.

Food security, Professor?  It is true that as a percentage Scotland has less arable land – we’ve got mountains.  And there is an overall deficit of about £50m between exports and imports of food produce but out of a market value of £12 billion, that is, as they say, chicken feed.  And as the government says: Per capita of population, Scotland’s agricultural sector produces more food for human consumption than the agricultural sector in the UK as a whole.

In 2010, per capita production in Scotland stood at £330, whilst UK production per capita was £219.  Compared to 2008, in 2009 Scottish agricultural production per capita decreased by £16.  UK agricultural production per capita decreased by £11 per capita during the same period.

Most of our imports are from across the EU with a high percentage in animal feed from South America, neither at the mercy of the anti-independence Big Four supermarkets.  I fear the professor’s image of a Berlin air -lift of powdered milk after independence looks a little like another of Better Together’s Silly Ideas for Christmas.

Courtesy of Derek Bateman