Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment, talks about the problems faced by dairy farmers.
In Scotland we are lucky to live in a land where we have an abundance of delicious, high quality food and drink. As well as being enjoyed at home, much of our produce is known and loved around the globe.
It might, then, come as a surprise that in our shops and retail outlets the biggest selling cheese is from Cornwall, the biggest selling butter is from Denmark and the biggest selling yogurt is made in England.
Now Scottish butter, cheese and other dairy products are up there with the very best in the world and our dairy farmers and processors have a proud tradition of excellence and quality in their products.
Clearly, something is not quite right. In this Year of Food and Drink, we also have a great opportunity to promote Scotland’s natural larder at home and abroad. This can help all our farmers and food producers maximise the sales and increase their contribution to our economy.
We should be proud of our excellent produce, we should be promoting it and shouting about how good it is.
That’s exactly where the plan to launch a new Scottish dairy brand comes in. By making it easier to identify dairy products that were made here in Scotland, we make it easier for shoppers to choose local options.
This really is a win-win – shoppers get great quality food and drink and help Scottish farmers and our economy by protecting jobs in the sector.
The new brand will make it easier for Scottish dairy farmers to take advantage of the reputation for excellence that many Scottish food and drink items already enjoy as far afield as Asia and the USA.
This is particularly important when it comes to dairy products. Many headlines have told us about the fall in the price farmers are being paid for their milk. I have heard directly from farmers who are struggling and worries about the future of their family farms. They will reap the benefits of more consumers choosing to buy locally produced dairy products and more overseas buyers opting for the Scottish.
Many of our remote and island communities are particularly dependent on the contribution of farming to their local economy – where our farms support many jobs and make small communities viable. And they are among those who have been hit hardest by the fall in milk prices.
I will shortly publish an action plan to help ensure a more sustainable future for the industry. This will co-ordinate effort across the public sector to support our dairy farmers and help get the industry in Scotland back to a place where it can look forward to a brighter future.
If retailers, shoppers, the public sector and farmers all do their bit, we can look forward to a day when the top sellers of butter, cheese and yoghurt in our country are the ones that are made in our country and Scottish dairy is up there with the top food and drink brands around the globe.