South Scotland

Food and drink hopes for Dumfries and Galloway economy

Cheese Image copyright Getty Images

The food and drink sector in south west Scotland has been described as an "engine" of the local economy.

It is reckoned to employ nearly 14,000 people in Dumfries and Galloway with an annual turnover of £1.29bn.

In line with the national strategy Ambition 2030 it is now hoped to double that value over the next 12 years.

But what does the area think it has to offer that might allow it to see such a huge expansion and help boost tourism and the wider economy?

Fresh produce

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Andrew Wood, vice chairman of the council's economy, environment and infrastructure committee, said the region was a big player in the sector.

"Dumfries and Galloway is already one of Scotland's most important food-producing regions, with more than 40% of Scotland's dairy and around 20% of the nation's red meat produced here," he said.

"We also have a number of large manufacturers providing valuable jobs in communities like Kirkconnel, Stranraer, Lockerbie, Castle Douglas and Annan.

"We have an exceptional artisan sector, a growing number of food tourism experiences and festivals, and a rich network of independently-owned restaurants and cafes that all reflect the local food heritage of their own communities."

Celebrating food

Image copyright Kim Ayres

Lorna Young, of industry body DG Food and Drink, said: "It is clear that collaboration will play an important role in growing our region's economy.

"Perhaps more than any other region in Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway's food and drink and tourism industries are very closely intertwined.

"So we look forward to exploring how these two industries can work together to make the most of the rapid growth in the food tourism sector, as initiatives like the Stranraer Oyster Festival and Castle Douglas Food Town are already doing."

Farmers' markets

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Small food business owner Sarah Burchell farms home-bred hogget and mutton with her husband Steve, which is then sold direct at farmers' markets including Kirkcudbright and Edinburgh's Castle Terrace.

She also helped with the recent relocation of Dumfries farmers' market to the town's railway station.

"Our farmers' markets demonstrate at a micro scale the impact that collaboration, mentoring and a supportive and ambitious culture can have on business growth," she said.

"The whole food and drink industry, from producer and grower through to chef and retailer, relies on supply chains and on collaboration with others.

"I'm looking forward to our industry pulling together, to address challenges and identify opportunities to help us all reap the benefit."

Restaurant role

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"Our region benefits from a number of excellent local restaurants owned and run by chefs who understand the importance of quality and of reflecting the natural larder of our region within menus," said Russell Pearce, chef proprietor of Brodies of Moffat.

"The hospitality industry is a critically-important part of the food and drink sector, particularly in servicing the needs of visitors to our region.

"For many visitors the menus in cafes, restaurants and hotels will leave a lasting impression of the quality of the tourism experience, so it is vital that we get it right."

Follow the money

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Launching the growth target, Archie Dryburgh, who chairs the council's economy, environment and infrastructure committee, said: "Growing our local food and drink economy is a critically-important part of securing an ambitious and resilient economic future for our region.

"Our council has committed to support our region's food and drink industry throughout the duration of this administration.

"After all, if we are to unlock the economic potential of our region, we must start with our most valuable economic sector."

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