New horizons beckon for farmers and food producers and it’s not just the big firms who can capitalise on opportunities to send world-class Scottish products to fresh marketplaces.
Open Doors is a £2 million initiative from the UK Government to help farmers and the food and seafood sectors seize new opportunities in fast-growing consumer markets beyond Europe.
It will support small and medium-size enterprises with mentoring to help their produce reach places they perhaps never dreamed of before.
The renowned quality of British produce makes it highly competitive in the global marketplace and it is hugely appealing to a growing middle class in parts of the world such as Asia.
Brexit has allowed us to introduce our own tariff regime – one much less protectionist than the EU’s – that will increase overseas demand for our high quality food and drink.
We are deep in negotiation to tear down tariff walls, whether that be up to 26% on our beef going to the American market, or a 150% surcharge on Scotch whisky to India. And we saw last week that additional US tariffs on Scotch have been suspended, while duties on cashmere have also been slashed.
And being free of both the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy we are able to look afresh at how we do business, confident in our own ability to deliver results.
Working in close partnership with industry, the new Open Doors initiative will see the UK Government’s Department for International Trade (DIT) provide practical help via an initiative with industry experts.
DIT will work with a wide range of organisations as this scheme progresses to deliver special masterclasses, mentoring and more for farmers and food producers.
We want to give would-be exporters the tools and knowledge they need to start selling internationally, building on nearly £22 billion in agri-food and drink sent overseas in 2020.
And we believe British businesses can maximise the opportunities new trade deals will bring – by the end of this decade, 66% of the world’s middle class consumers are expected to be found in Asia.
They are hungry for our top-quality food and drink, where they know – from farm to fork – that high standards have been at the heart.
Meat prices are higher in Asia than Europe and demand for British food and drink is growing around the rest of the world – in 2019 the United States was the world’s second largest beef importer.
It is important we help more farmers and food producers to take advantage of these sorts of global opportunities.
It’s an exciting thought that produce from Scotland – beef and lamb from our rolling hills and fields; seafood from our pristine waters, for example – could increasingly be on shelves around the Pacific Rim and across the Americas.
Domestic markets remain our bedrock. Scotland currently sells more to the rest of the UK than to the rest of the world combined.
As demanded by the food and drink industry, the Internal Market Act protects this, boosting our economic recovery with its principles of mutual recognition and non-discrimination to deliver a level playing field UK-wide.
We are complementing this by striking Free Trade Agreements – the UK Government has agreed trade deals with 66 countries plus the EU, that account for £890bn of UK bilateral trade in 2019.
The UK Government has repeatedly made it clear that we are committed to not compromising on high standards on food safety and animal welfare.
Working hand-in-hand I believe Government and industry can walk through those open doors to new prosperity.
- David Duguid MP is the UK Government Minister for Scotland.