The progress we as a nation have made is heartening. Scotland’s food and drink is a genuine success story. But we must not rest on our laurels. There is much more to do if we are to ensure continued economic growth and transform our food culture.
In terms of economic growth. Serious on-going challenges remain.
- Lack of market diversity, turnover figures, and especially exports, are dominated by whisky. Food exports are still too reliant on a few, mature markets, with excellent opportunities elsewhere going a-begging.
- Some supply chains are hampered by low investment in raw material supply or by what many see as a lack of genuine competition or resilience in different parts of the chain.
- The excellent productivity figures of the whisky industry tend to mask the performance of many other parts of the sector.
But the most stark challenges lie elsewhere.
- Poor diet contributes significantly to the main causes of death and poor health in Scotland, including heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Children’s diets are particularly poor, and the proportion of adults in Scotland that are overweight or obese is 64% and rising. Scotland has the fifth highest prevalence of obesity compared to other countries worldwide Fruit and vegetables consumption in the poorest 20% has fallen by 20% since the recession. Diet-related disease contributes substantially to healthcare costs in Scotland. The total cost to Scottish society of obesity alone is upwards of £457 million (2008) and set to rise, if unchecked, to around £3 billion by 2030.
- Many people in Scotland are disconnected from their food. There are considerable efforts being made in schools and elsewhere, to engage with children. Nevertheless, many people of all ages in Scotland remain profoundly unaware of how and where the food they eat – and its ingredients – are produced.
- Food culture, we have deep-seated poor dietary habits and low expectations of consumers in Scotland. These attitudes develop from a very early age. They are often as evident in affluent suburbia as in city centres and can manifest themselves in many ways, from unhealthy purchasing and consumption to an unhelpful reluctance to challenge poor standards in catering, whether institutional, hospitality or other.
- Food, in all its stages, is estimated to account worldwide for 31% of greenhouse gas emissions. Not all of this can be tackled in Scotland but Scotland must play its part on this and on the wider environmental impact of food production.
- There are serious world-wide threats to global food security over the next 50 years with the world population expected to rise from 7 billion today to 9 billion by 2050. Food represents one of the biggest challenges facing Governments today. There is overwhelming evidence that the food system will be increasingly vulnerable to climate change and other global threats. For example, a study conducted by a leading retailer showed 95% of its entire range of fresh produce currently sold is already at risk from climate change.
- As a nation, we waste one fifth of the food we buy every year – most of which could have been avoided. It’s expensive and it’s bad for our environment; 630,000 tonnes of food and drink is thrown away annually – costing Scots over £1 billion and creating harmful greenhouse gases.
These facts point to a profound paradox: a nation renowned worldwide for producing high quality food and drink and yet with world beating levels of diet-related disease and an uneasy relationship with its food.
This needs to change. We need a Scotland that recognises, at all levels, the strategic importance of food so we can move towards a healthier, resilient and sustainable food system.
Telephone: 0300 244 9802
Food, Drink and Rural Communities