Last November saw the launch of the Scottish Agri Export Hub by NFUS in partnership with SAOS. The hub will develop new export opportunities and expand existing export markets for Scottish agricultural produce for the benefit of primary producers.
The initiative is funded by the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership’s Recovery Plan, which is supported by the Scottish Government. It will focus on the potato, cereal, fruit and vegetable sectors to expand the market horizons and connections more directly for primary producers and to seek out markets where a higher return may be possible, to drive more value down the supply chain.
Patrick Hughes, the former Head of Potato Export Development at AHDB and former Head of Seafood Scotland has joined SAOS to drive the initiative forward.
"The purpose is to offer post-Covid and post-Brexit support for Scotland's primary producers, the hub will provide a platform and a support network for growers," explains Patrick. "At the moment Scotland exports products such as soft fruit, Brussels sprouts, turnips and (seed) potatoes, but these exports fluctuate, if there is oversupply in the UK or a good opportunity in an overseas market. We want help growers export primary produce on a more consistent basis."
The Scottish Agri Export Hub has insight to export markets and access to in-market specialists located in key geographic locations through the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership who can advise potential exporters on market conditions, be this in retail, wholesale or processing markets.
Scotland is already very well known for its seed potato exports, but since the EU market was closed to them because of Brexit new markets need to be found.
Soft fruit has real export potential. Products such as Scottish cherries enjoy the status of being the latest cherries in the Northern Hemisphere to be picked and brought to market, it is the only country still picking in September.
"Our job is to speak to people at home and link with our network abroad and identify the opportunities to put Scottish produce on the shelves, it may be only for a few weeks in the year, but it is still a great opportunity. Who knows, but if growers are presented with opportunities, they might grow specific varieties for specific markets."
Exporting fresh produce will always have its challenges, one of which being able to supply a product at competitive price.
"For products like soft fruit we would be looking at premium markets and only supplying in certain periods. It all about selling a story, our products, the environment in which they grow and the passion and expertise of our growers. It won't be without it's challenges especially in the current climate but we are hopeful that by building this support network we can make a difference."