Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has welcomed the publication by the European Commission of a revised funding package for the promotion of agricultural products as a "major opportunity for Scottish exports".
The proposals, unveiled by Commissioner Ciolos at last night's Agriculture Committee meeting, will treble the budget for promotion from 61m EUR in 2014 to 200m EUR in 2020.
Although eligible schemes can target both the internal market and third countries, the Commission, as part of a new targeted strategy, wants to focus on external markets, with a higher EU funding rate and an aim to spend 75% of the budget on these measures, coordinated with potential free trade deals. Furthermore, the scope of eligible beneficiaries has expanded to include producer organisations, and eligible products now include processed products such as beer and bakery products.
Scottish organisation like Quality Meat Scotland have already successfully applied for EU funding under previous versions of the promotions scheme, for example securing 5m EUR in 2012 to promote Scotch Beef and Lamb on the EU internal market, in countries such as Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany.
"This is a golden age for Scotland's food and drink, thanks to the determined efforts of the Scottish Government to support expansion of the sector through our first ever National Food and Drink Strategy. Overall food and drink exports increased from £3.7 billion in 2007 to £5.3 billion in 2011, while our red meat exports beyond the UK increased from £38m to £81m over the same period.
"In a world of food scandals where consumers are increasingly demanding guaranteed production standards, Scotland has an unrivalled reputation for top quality assured produce. That's why this expansion of the Commission's budget for promoting European produce abroad is such an exciting prospect for us, and will help us get a foot into new markets: especially given the specific remit to market quality label items such as Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb. I'm more than confident that, given the opportunity, our produce can compete on taste and quality with anything in the world.
"I'm particularly pleased that the new programme has a more realistic attitude towards place of origin than previous rules which sought to eliminate all references altogether. Now information about origin will be available, for example on promotional material. This is an added bonus for our producers. I encourage all Scottish food and drink organisations to take the opportunity to apply."