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Whisky and seafood helps Scotland ‘punch above’ weight in exports

Up to 1,300 jobs boost if India Scotch whisky tariffs reduced.
Scottish food and drink exports bounce back.

North and north-east Scotland seafood and drinks companies are recovering strongly from the pandemic with exports up 15% in 2021 to £5.7bn, although numbers still remain down on pre-Covid levels.

The new UK Food and Drink Exports report from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) reveals the latest breakdown of exports from across the UK during 2021.

FDF data shows exports of whisky rose 18.7% to £4.6bn, while those of salmon increased 20.6% to £735.6m.

Strong return to growth

The recovery has been largely driven by a strong return to growth in exports of overall beverages and seafood products, with both up 16%.

Given the global strength of Scotch whisky exports, FDF Scotland says it is “unsurprising” Scotland’s biggest export category is drinks, which makes up almost three quarters of total consignments.

France is Scotland’s largest export partner

France is Scotland’s largest export partner, overtaking the US, with goods sent overseas now worth more than £1bn.

China numbers nearly doubled in 2021 to nearly £225m, making up 4% of Scotland’s food and drink exports.

The figures show Scotland, alongside Wales and the north-east of England, had the strongest recovery in response to the supply chain problems caused by Covid and the new UK-EU trading relationship.

Key findings

  • Scotland accounts for the largest share of UK food and drink exports at almost 30% of total exports
  • Worth £5.7bn exports are up by nearly 15% since 2020
  • Scotland’s recovery has largely been driven by a strong growth in exports of beverages and seafood products, together accounting for £5.2bn of total Scottish exports
  • France is now Scotland’s largest export partner, worth more than £1bn, and exports to China nearly doubled in 2021 to just under £225m

FDF Scotland notes the country’s share of exports to non-EU markets is increasing and there are “opportunities to drive further export growth through new trade deals” with increased market access.

Loch Duart salmon now available to general public
Salmon exports increased 20.6% to £735.6m.

However, the association adds more can be done to improve the implementation of the UK-EU trade agreement to help companies recover exports in the EU alongside growing market share in other global markets.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was not factored into the report and the full impact on the food and drink sector’s exports, as well as on the global supply chains on which the industries rely for some ingredients, such as vegetable oils, cereals and white fish are still to be understood.

Scotland has largest share of UK food and drink exports

“Scotland continues to punch above its weight – accounting for the largest share of UK food and drink exports – with an impressive 30% of total exports,” said FDF Scotland chief executive David Thomson.

“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 new opportunities will help further increase sales of Scotland’s food and drink abroad.

“We will continue to work with Scottish and UK governments and partners from across the food chain to support the recovery and growth of our vital industry.”

For her part Scotland rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon added: “Scotland’s food and drink producers not only play a major role in our economy, these figures demonstrate their high-quality products are being increasingly enjoyed by consumers across the world.

Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon.
Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon.

“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.”

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