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Tavish Scott:  “The incredibly encouraging export figures demonstrate the resilience of our industry
Tavish Scott: “The incredibly encouraging export figures demonstrate the resilience of our industry". Photo: Salmon Scotland.

Scotland’s economic recovery following the Covid lockdowns has largely been driven by strong growth in exports of drinks and seafood products, which together accounted for £5.2 billion of the £5.7 bn earned from Scottish food and drink exports in 2021.

Beverage exports, dominated by Scotch whisky, were worth £4.2 bn, and fish and seafood exports brought in £1 bn, according to a report by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF). Beverage and fish and seafood exports each showed an increase in value of 16.4% compared to 2020.

Taking all categories into account, last year’s food and drink export earnings were still lower than the pre-Covid levels of 2019 by 5.6%. But 2021’s export earnings from fish and seafood were higher than 2019, albeit by just 0.2%.

Fish and seafood exports were worth more to Scotland last year than in Covid-affected 2020 or 2019, before Covid disrupted world trade. Click image to enlarge. Table: FDF.
Fish and seafood exports were worth more to Scotland last year than in Covid-affected 2020 or 2019, before Covid disrupted world trade. Click image to enlarge. Table: FDF.

Scottish salmon

Figures from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs show that Scottish salmon was the UK’s biggest fresh food export last year, with overseas sales increasing to £614 million in 2021 - up 36% compared to 2020 and only marginally below the £618 m made in 2019, when the industry produced a record-high volume of fish.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of industry body Salmon Scotland, said: “There is soaring demand for our unrivalled farm-raised Scottish salmon, with exports recovering to near record-levels.”

He added: “The incredibly encouraging export figures demonstrate the resilience of our industry and are testament to the hard work and dedication of farmers during the Covid pandemic.”

Punching above its weight

David Thomson, chief executive of FDF Scotland, said: “Scotland continues to punch above its weight – accounting for the largest share of UK food and drink exports - with an impressive 30% of total exports.”

France, the gateway to Europe for salmon and many other food and drink products, is Scotland’s largest export partner, overtaking the United States (£992.8 m), with exports now worth more than £1bn.