Food for thought
Call for local agency to promote producers
A food and drink consultant has warned that small local producers in the region are being starved of support to grow their businesses.
Liz Ramsay claims national agency Food and Drink Scotland is “irrelevant” in the region because it concentrates on big exporting firms.
Ms Ramsay, of Knockreoch Farm near Dalry, believes hundreds of micro-companies in Dumfries and Galloway are being ignored.
Her blunt message comes as the Scottish Government aims to double the industry’s annual turnover to £30 billion by 2030.
Ms Ramsay said: “There always seems to be barriers against Dumfries and Galloway.
“The Scottish Government is a huge fan of Food and Drink Scotland but it’s not relevant to the region.
“They just support the big boys, the distilleries and big manufacturers. They say they want to promote small-scale businesses but it’s just lip service.”
She added: “Food and Drink Scotland has a very low membership here because they have far too narrow a focus. It misses out the whole grass-roots sector completely.
“People just don’t understand the logistical problems we have here. Unless you understand that and get to the root of the problem nothing is going to happen.”
Ms Ramsay headed the hugely successful Savour the Flavours project from 2009 to 2013 – and reckons it’s time to go it alone again.
She said: “I think there needs to be a chunk of national money given to set up a pilot scheme across the region.
“It is hugely important the project be developed and funds spent by people who understand Dumfries and Galloway. It would need to involve all sectors from food producers to retailers and chefs.
“It could be set up with a similar time scale to Savour the Flavours which ran for two years initially. It then got another two years to build on the many successes achieved.
“If we could get that in place, they would be quite staggered at the response.”
Scotland Food and Drink membership director at Rachel Athey said: “Agriculture, food and drink is central to Dumfries and Galloway’s economy and we’re doing a lot of work to drive growth for businesses in the area.
“We had 35 producers from across the region meeting in Thornhill recently to map out the next phase of activity. Many local producers are members of Scotland Food and Drink and their support drives our work.”
She added: “We have recently launched the Showcasing Scotland regional trade events to introduce local producers to buyers of Scottish produce, from farm shops to local hotels and restaurants. The first event is at Hampden on March 7 and businesses from Dumfries and Galloway will be attending to meet buyers from across the west of Scotland.”
Dumfries and Galloway producers will also meet local food groups from across Scotland later this month to share best practice, Ms Athey said.
SF&D receives £1.3 million from the Scottish Government for sales and market development.
Food and drink consultant Liz Ramsay wants to see more support for small local producers