Richard Lochhead – Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment
National Food and Drink Conference Speech
March 7, 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to beautiful Perthshire which as I’m sure many of you know makes a fine contribution to Scotland’s outstanding larder.
And as I found out on a recent visit to a local primary school, it’s also in the Guinness Book of Records for the most northerly find of white truffles, much to the delight of the schoolkids who found them in their vegetable patch.
Another claim to food fame is that Perth was host to Scotland’s first ever Farmers’ Market.
An appropriate location for today’s event!
I want to welcome all of you from far – and in some cases very far - and near, to, this, our second national Food and Drink conference.
As we saw you are here representing diverse backgrounds, but you all have one thing in common.
You want to see changes in our food and drink culture.
You want to see a better world for the generations to come.
And I know you share my ambition that we all can make a real difference not only to Scotland, but across the globe.
I say we, because we are all in this together.
Collectively, we are a power to be reckoned with.
Today, I want to show why ambition for food and drink is necessary, and set out how we continue down the positive path which I, as Minister for Food, was proud to help start in 2007.
A lot has changed over the past five years.
Since 2007, the food and drink industry has grown by 25 per cent - yes, a quarter!
A massive and welcome leap forward for a major sector – a major success story!
And from the national to the local, since 2007, there have been more than 50 new Farmers’ Markets across Scotland.
From the local to the global with food exports breaking the £1 billion mark for the first time and whisky exports underpinned by the finest malting barley also breaking export records.
Food and drink is truly a subject that is local, national and global.
It is about health and decadence, using our natural resources, protecting our environment, it’s about premium markets, but affordability as well.
We are all united about the importance of food and drink but we know there are often difficult and competing priorities.
That’s why food and drink is often the subject of debate.
That’s why food and drink is not just my responsibility it is the responsibility of the health minister, the enterprise minister – indeed it is taken seriously across the whole of the Scottish Government.
I believe that together we can find common ground and make a real difference.
And we must do this, because we have some real challenges to face.
For instance, we are experiencing a very challenging economic climate and one way or another we are all feeling the strain.
The environment around is changing in other ways. We see the impact of climate change not only on our TV screens but also at first hand in our communities with floods and other unusual weather patterns.
Who would have thought that in the middle of winter, parts of England would be suffering from a drought?
Droughts such as this are not unusual in other parts of the world, where they have serious consequences with crop failures and starvation.
And closer to home, we have people who are undernourished for various reasons yet at the same time we are fighting an obesity battle with almost 65% of adults in Scotland either overweight or obese. That is approximately two thirds of our nation.
So, our health, our economy, and our environment are real challenges, affecting each and every one of us.
Food and drink
What we eat and drink and how we consume what is produced lies at the very heart of the challenges we face.
That is why we need to take our food even more seriously than we have done in generations.
Somehow, we need to rebalance our relationship with what we eat and with what we drink.
We need to continue our food and drink revolution.
Our lives may literally depend on it!
The statistics reflecting Scotland’s relationship with smoking, drinking and diet can paint a bleak picture.
But, with genuine collaboration, I believe we can improve life expectancy and stem our risk of serious illness.
The good news is that we are not on ‘page one’ with regard to taking action.
Since 2007, the Scottish Government has addressed the challenges head-on. In 2010, we published a progressive and well-received obesity prevention strategy, setting out some of the changes we need to see up to 2030.
It is a long-term action plan because achieving successful outcomes requires changes in our lifestyles and our very environment.
We need to find ways of forging shifts in culture and thinking, and that is not something you can do overnight.
We need manufacturers, retailers, caterers, planners and transport decision-makers, to name but a few, to take these steps with us and begin to help our environment to support a healthy lifestyle.
Some of you here are already working to make a contribution to preventing obesity.
The Scottish Retail Consortium, the Scottish Food and Drink Federation and the British Hospitality Association are all round the table.
A new Scottish Reformulation Working Group meets for the very first time tomorrow.
And an early priority for this Group will be to reduce the calorie and salt content of products and build on the positive steps industry has made these last few years on the promotion of healthier, less energy dense food.
We are fast-approaching a tipping-point.
We all now need to do significantly more to support our people to make healthy choices when they are shopping and eating out.
So, please think through how you can play your part.
Improving our nation’s health will always be a cornerstone of our approach to our food and drink policy.
That’s why I’m really pleased that Dr Joao Breda from the World Health Organisation is here today to give us his perspective on the global situation in this regard.
Making the right choice about food is critical to our health.
Some would say that we have lost the ability to do so.
Some would say we need to teach our young to learn to make these choices and influence what is offered to them.
Later today, you will hear directly from some young people when they debate the marketing of food.
In doing this, these young people will have investigated the issues and understood them.
Too many young people don’t know where the food on their plates comes from. Ask them where carrots come from and they say the supermarket.
Often they have no concept of what it takes to grow them, market them, or even cook them. This is not the fault of our children, it's society's responsibilty. We need to do more to support our young people
We want our young people to have the tools they need to stand up and say:
“This is not good enough. We want a food culture which is helping our health and the environment.”
That is why in 2010 I funded several pilot projects which led to more schoolchildren than ever before visiting farms and producers and learning about food on their plates - often helping to bridge the gap between city and countryside at the same time.
These projects have meant that more teachers are supported to teach children about food across our new school Curriculum and more young people are finding out about career opportunities in the food industry.
Indeed, today you will hear from pupils at Eastbank Academy in Glasgow about their project to develop their product, ‘Milky Twist’, with Wisemans Diaries.
I visited them recently and can assure you - it tastes great!
This is great progress, but I want more.
I want a step change and I want to see public and private sector support.
That is why over the next year we will have a real focus on education.
And I am announcing today that to help achieve this, the Scottish Government is committing a further £2 million towards food education in Scotland’s schools.
With this investment, I want to build on the success of the pilot projects and I am challenging them to think bigger and do more.
But I am also keeping some of it aside to use as seed money to attract investment from the private sector, and I challenge them to work in partnership with schools and invest in our children’s future.
Everyone I speak to in the private sector says to me that they want to help.
Small businesses, big businesses, primary producers, major manufacturing companies, all tell me they want to help make a difference. Well, I’m taking you all upon your offer!
Now is your chance to put your money where your mouth is!
Indeed, we already have out first volunteer. Geoff Bruce of Bruce Farms has already stepped up to the plate by making a commitment of financial support – I hope many other businesses follow his example.
To lead this work, I will establish a high level leaders group from the food and education sectors who will be tasked with developing private investment and steering the education programme.
And let me be clear. I want to see every pupil in Scotland benefit from food education by 2016.
But remember everyone has a role to play. Ask yourself how can I contribute? Is there a way you can find funding for food projects in your area? Can you contribute your time to work with teachers to share your experiences?
My job gives me the privilege of seeing some of the projects our children participate in. Their enthusiasm never fails to amaze.
Capitalise on this. Work with us and help keep this momentum going so that our young people are given solid foundations to see them into their adulthood.
In talking about schools I would be remiss if I did not mention the importance of the food our children are served in school.
Some are privileged to have their own kitchen gardens and, since 2008, £570,000 from our Climate Challenge Fund has helped with 22 school growing projects.
Some are even more privileged to have top Chefs such as Albert Roux, Graham Palister here in Perth or Andrew Fairlie from up the road at Gleneagles and many others working with them. And of course, Nick Nairn is right behind this agenda as well.
But all have the protection of the Scottish Government’s ground-breaking Schools Nutrition Act which sets out legal standards for food in schools.
And today, we have the honour of having Dr. Janey Thornton giving us an American perspective on this approach and the lessons they are taking from our work.
Public Sector Procurement
It is important that our schools have good, healthy food, and Scottish companies have an important role to play in that.
To help, we aim to make public sector procurement as easy as possible which is why, thanks to our efforts, we now have 783 suppliers to 117 public organisations in a market worth over £130 million a year.
This means that companies like Graham’s Dairy from Bridge of Allan and Stir Fresh from Angus have become big suppliers to the public sector.
But we are not stopping there. Our proposed sustainable procurement Bill will put food procurement for the public sector as a legal duty.
The more local companies supplying local schools, hospitals and soon the better.
Good local fresh food eaten locally can also help the environment.
And as a Government, we are clear environmental sustainability is vital to Scotland’s future.
We are committed to a low Carbon economy with our world leading Climate Change Act and emphasis on renewable energy.
We also take our Zero Waste commitments seriously, not least to help reduce the scandalous amount of food waste in our society.
But we need to be resource efficient in everything we do.
Which is why I am always delighted to hear of the many sustainable practices being developed by farmers, hoteliers and producers. Our pure clear waters and magnificent countryside are major assets which need to be protected and enhanced.
This type of innovation is key to tackling our environmental challenges, and is of fundamental importance to the future success of our food and drink industry.
Today you will hear first hand from Jo Macsween about some of the innovation she has introduced to Macsween’s haggis.
Food and Drink Sector
Jo’s company is also one of the growing successes of Scotland’s food and drink industry.
An industry which is on track to smash its £12.5 billion turnover target five years early.
An industry which is outperforming the UK food industry.
An industry whose exports are breaking all records and outperforming all other manufacturing industries.
Countries like China just can’t get enough of our products, particularly salmon. And I’ve just returned from Dubai where there’s an appetite for our higher-end produce.
I am proud of the success of the food and drink sector’s leadership body, Scotland Food & Drink.
I am particularly pleased with the fantastic collaboration and partnerships that have been fostered between farmers, fishermen, food processors and manufacturers, salmon farmers, whisky companies and all parts of the supply chain.
I want to see these collaborations flourish and I want to see Scotland continue to grow as the Land of Food and Drink and keep delivering its fantastic contribution to the sustainable economic growth of this country.
At the bedrock of this economic success are the primary producers – the farmers and fishermen – who have the skills to produce the raw materials that underpin a huge industry.
The men and women that farm the land, or who fish our seas, are fundamental parts of our national identity.
Indeed we can easily see how Scotland’s produce has shaped our culture and our land since we first ventured into agriculture almost 6000 years ago.
From the thousands of years old Lazy Beds of the Western Isles that still grow potatoes, to the polytunnels that flank the river Tay growing our world-renowned soft fruit.
We continue to mix old and new, traditional and experimental in our journey to not only feed ourselves but others as well such as the nine billion predicted to be on our planet in 2050.
This is one of the reasons why I work so hard in EU negotiations on agriculture and fisheries. Our food security is of real importance to our countries future.
Let’s not forget that our primary producers on our coasts and in our countryside are also key to the local food movement which is sweeping across this country.
For some it might be a reaction to the industrialisation of food or a backlash against globalisation or a desire to support local economies or simply because it helps them get back in touch with where their food comes from.
But whatever the reason the demand for local food is strong and is likely to grow.
This country has a lot to offer!
Scotland boasts some of the finest and highest quality local produce in the world. You only need to go out to the market place in the foyer to see some of this for yourself.
Farmers’ Markets are thriving, and there are more and more local food networks and food trails. There are more and more community groups all across the country growing food.
More retailers are stocking local produce because we, as consumers, tell them that this is what we want, even in these tight economic times.
I recently heard Joanne Denney-Finch of The Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) – who do market intelligence for supermarkets – say that shoppers were prepared to pay extra for the quality of ingredients, high animal welfare standards, locally produced food with a known country of origin.
This is great news for all of us interested in supporting local food.
But I am impatient for much more. I want to shift our local food movement to the next level.
Later this year I will set out our strategy for local food, but I want to share my vision with you today.
I want us to celebrate our local food. I want restaurants, hotels and shops to be clear about where they source from. I want farmer’s markets and farm shops to flourish. I want allotments and grow-your-own projects to thrive – and build on the education that we will deliver in our schools. I want to see our talented chefs have access to the finest of our produce and Scotland’s people enjoying a food renaissance.
I want to see the public and private sector working together to put resources behind this. I want to see this delivered, along with Education, as one of the key success of our National Food and Drink Policy.
National Food and Drink Policy
This leads me on to why we are here today.
To celebrate the success of our national food and drink policy.
We have come a long way since its conception in 2007 and publication in 2009.
As I said at the start, there are challenges, tensions and opportunities and we don’t always have the answers. I know we need to communicate better and involve more. And there is so much more to do to match our ambitions.
But as I hope you see today, we are also successful in many ways.
You might be interested to know that just this year the policy has been held up as a model by many from the Canadian Government to representatives of Slow Food from Italy.
As we move through 2012 into 2013 we will ensure we don’t lose momentum and we continue to gather pace.
To build on this, in this recent Budget, I more than doubled the food policy budget to over £14m for the next three years.
Today, I have allocated £2 million of that so still some way to go and I am all ears!
Many of you have worked with us to get where we are now. I ask you to keep looking where you can help us, let us know where the opportunities are, and importantly remember to highlight your achievements.
We have a great story to tell, so let’s tell it.
It’s an exciting story.
And this is an exciting time to live in Scotland.
We are debating Scotland’s place in the world, what kind of society we want to live in, and our lifestyles.
And the health, environmental and economic impact of the production and consumption of food and drink is wrapped up in all of that!
But I am believe we are going in the right direction.
But there are still many ironies in our approach to food.
It is ironic that we produce some of the healthiest food in the world – our berries, our oats, our fish - and yet we have such a challenging health record.
It is ironic that we produce such excellent high quality food, and yet not enough of it is enjoyed within Scotland.
I don’t stand here before you to pretend that I have all the answers to these challenges.
But together I am sure we can make a difference – because there are great opportunities ahead.
Scotland will be on the world stage in 2014, with the next Homecoming, Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup.
Opportunities to shout to the world that we are Scotland - the Land of Food and Drink.
So together, let’s imagine.
Let’s imagine we have a saucepan full of the enthusiasm and expertise around this room today.
Lets add in some dinner ladies and food entrepreneurs, everything from our top hotels to our cafes. We should season with chefs and scientists, companies and the politicians will supply the heat, as they always do!
Add some community groups and farmers’ markets to taste and garnish with enthusiastic teachers and inspired pupils.
I think you will agree we would have a healthy, environmentally sustainable dish to show off our food and drink future.
Ladies and gentlemen, with your help, we will continue to grow and shout about our reputation as a Land of Food and Drink. Thank you.