Wales Food & Drink Exports Per Head Only A Tenth Of That Of Scotland, But Why?

09 Oct

Scottish food and drink could soon rival oil and gas as the nation’s greatest export, according to new targets set last month. With the industry booming, the aim is to grow the value of food and drink sent abroad to £7.1 billion in just five years. Oil and gas exports are currently worth £7.6 billion. The new targets, set by Scotland Food and Drink, were unveiled during Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight and at a time when the sector is booming with a growing appetite for Scottish produce overseas.

Yes OK, you’re puzzled and thinking that I have lost the plot completely, talking about Scotland when my passion is 100% for Welsh food. The reason is quite simple it started me wondering if I’d been sent any export figures for Welsh food and drink. HCC are very good at giving figures out about Welsh meat exports, but I cannot recall the other sectors.

So my first port of call was Food for Wales, Food from Wales 2010 – 2020, a document looking to the future of Welsh Food. I was sure that this must have some figures from which to start, but skimming through both the consultation document and the report, I couldn’t find any easily, apart from meat once more. Eventually I find some figures from a Welsh Assembly document entitled ‘Food Security March 2011’ which gave me figures for 2009  – ‘Wales imported £342.1 million and exported £143.8 million of food and drink in 2009’.

HM Revenue and Customs, Regional Trade in Goods – Incorporating EU27, [Accessed 23 February 2011]

Now even with my hopelessness in maths, it would be unfair to compare these two figures, so I tried to level the lumpy playing field.

Scotland hopes to export £7.1 billion food and drink in 2015 and has a population of 5,254,800 as of August 2012.

Back in 2009, Wales exported £144m worth of food and as of the 2011 census has a population of 3,060,000.

Yet these figures are still biased towards Scotland with its highly profitable Scotch whisky industry which in 2011 exported £4.2 billion. Gosh what an enviable export figure!

So taking out as many variables as possible, here’s my export summary for 2015 –

Scotland: £7.1bn less £4.2bn i.e. £551 per head of population.

Wales exports £46.99 per head of population.

What a difference between the two countries with Scotland certainly leading the way. So where is Wales going wrong? Does the fault lie with wag and the priorities it has set for food and drink? Wales has certainly received a great deal of European funding, which I’m sure also applies to Scotland. But is the explanation to this conundrum lie in Scotland using its European grants more wisely than Wales?

As always, I’m interested in your views  and really appreciate reading any comments. Please be assured that your identity is known only to me and even that is only through your email. You can select any name at all, it really doesn’t matter, but your comments are always of great interest.  With welshfoodbites rankings according to Alexa are @ 215,993 as of 08/10/12, you can be certain that plenty of people are reading your views!!!!


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  1. food producer

    October 10, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Maybe we should send our food people up to Scotland to find out how they do thing. Actually we could send all of visit wales people up there too and they could do some homework on how Scotland beats Wales hands down.

  2. BBB

    October 11, 2012 at 9:25 am

    I suspect this has a lot more to do with the perceiveved nature of Scottishness, both within the UK and in the wider world, than anything else. Also, there has been significant investment in brand Scotland, by both public and private sectors.

    This means that the concept of ‘Scottish’ is well understood, and people from all parts of the world are prepared and happy to buy into that. There has also been considerable efforts made to create a “Made in Scotland” sign of provenance, that producers are proud to use, and consumers prepared to look for.

    In Wales, this just hasn’t been the case, and the concept of Food Tourism only now seems to be creeping onto the agenda. Hopefully the work being done in WAG under Alun Davies will result in a more coherent policy to promoting Wales and Welsh produce, and perhaps even the Made in Wales marque that is so missing at present.

    We have some of the best produce and producers in the world here in Wales, yet we seem unable to propogate that message. Carelessness? Mismanagement? Are we all too shy? Lets hope its just because we’re all too busy doing what we do best to have joined this battle beforehand?

    Here’s to more Scottishness in Wales!?

  3. cheeseman

    October 12, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I’m not surprised that Scotland is yet again leaving us in their wake – but when will Wales food wake up?
    How come Scotland can do a far better job than Wales can?

  4. trader

    October 16, 2012 at 11:13 am

    I’m not surprised to read this and hate having to say that wales has never been leading the way and certainly not on food
    I don’t get why wales cannot get its act together and really know and understand just what we producers actually need and do not push supermarkets down our throats again. Wales wastes so much money whilst many of us are having a very, very tough time to survive. Farmers markets are not very good they don’t get enough marketing and coverage despite nearly a million pounds going to fba festivals some are so good you can’t get in others so poor you have to ask why wag keeps funding them.
    wales follows but still rarely learns from the likes of Scotland who seem to understand their producers much better.

  5. meirion

    October 21, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    I noticed that from the export figures whisky was wisely removed for comparison. Maybe the branding and sheer farmed quantity of scottish salmon and Angus beef is a another huge contributor? Maybe comparing per capita is the wrong ratio? What about area? Wales is much smaller more densely populated with less farming potential

  6. admin

    October 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Good of you to have left a commnet, thanks so much.
    Having looked at the figures, indeed comparing as you suggest area against population, does reduce the difference, but only giving Scotland 7.6 times sales instead of 10. This proportion is still noteworthy.

    You also comment about Angus Beef. Both Scottish Beef and Welsh Beef have PGI (Protected Geographical Indicator) status, although Scotland was the first “Red Meat” to obtain this status, which may be an indicator in itself of why Scotland is doing so much better. Does this indicate that QMS (Quality Meat Scotland) is either quicker off the mark or more efficient than HCC ( Hybi Cig Cymru)? Certainly many independent Welsh butchers are envious of their Scottish counterparts with QMS.

    Fish and fishing is certainly a factor. With the fishing industry in Wales being mainly limited to day boats, its attempts at fish farming have been patchy to say the least. This weak link could be made weaker by the introduction of Marine Conservation Zones which will further limit the practices of the day boats, which could never be accused of damaging fish stocks if only due to their size (or lack of it) alone.