Food for thought

Call for lo­cal agency to pro­mote pro­duc­ers

Dumfries & Galloway Standard - - NEWS - Stephen Nor­ris

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

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