Turnover in Scotland’s food and drink sector has grown to a record £14.8 billion, Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary said.
Fergus Ewing announced it had grown by £836m from 2016 to reach its highest ever total the following year.
But he warned this success would be put at risk by a no-deal Brexit, which would have a “catastrophic impact” on the sector.
Speaking in a debate at Holyrood, the Rural Economy Secretary told MSPs: “Turnover for 2017 was valued at £14.8 billion, an increase of £836 million on the previous year. What a tremendous tribute to all of those who work in the sector.”
Trading relationships with the EU were “at the heart of that success,” he added.
📣Great news as stats published today show that the value of Scotlandâs #FoodandDrink growth sector reached Â£14.8 billion in 2017. @fergusewingmsp @scotfooddrink 🥃🐟🐄https://t.co/8RydkIh2mR pic.twitter.com/a9IbzlX0S0— Scot Gov Greener (@GreenerScotland) May 16, 2019
Mr Ewing said: “Last year, over two thirds of our food exports went to the EU. Seven out of 10 top exports markets are in the EU, the EU is the largest market for Scotch whisky, 64% of seafood exports go to the EU. France alone accounts for a quarter of red meat exports.”
Tory MSP Donald Cameron hailed the food and drink sector as one of the “bastions” of Scotland’s economy.
He argued Brexit could be an “opportunity” for the indsutry, saying: “We want to see a deal passed that respects the referendum result and allows us to trade with other countries, boosting our own goods in the process, while maintaining trade and positive cooperation with our friends in the EU.
“The existing withdrawal agreement would allow us to do this.”
He claimed it was the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum that would damage the industry.
Nicola Sturgeon has set out her intention to hold such a ballot before the next Holyrood elections in May 2021.
Mr Cameron said: “One of the greatest threats to the growth of food and drink is of course the SNP’s announcements relating to a second independence referendum.
“Independence threatens the UK single market, which accounts for around 60% of Scottish exports.”
Labour’s Rhoda Grant said a no-deal Brexit would be a “disaster” for the indsutry, saying : “Import tariffs would lead to higher prices in the supermarkets and shops, and delays at the border.
“Our food and drink sector, as well as our country as a whole, are better served as part of a larger alliance that allows trade and support to flow, be that the EU or the UK.”