Ahead of The Scotsman's food and drink conference, Jane Clark-Hutchison considers the implications of the EU referendum for the industry.

Scottish food and drink firms are ambassadors for our country. They help sell Scotland to the world and reinforce our reputation for quality produce that stands up against the best that the rest of the world has to offer.

The 2016 Scotsman Food & Drink conference is a fantastic opportunity to reflect on that success, and also to come together to share our experiences for the future benefit of the sector as a whole.

Ahead of the event, Bank of Scotland will be publishing its fifth annual market survey of the food and drink sector in Scotland, which gives a snapshot of the shape of the industry.

By sharing the insight contained in this report with the wider industry, we aim to give food and drink firms a stronger sense of the key challenges and opportunities they face.

A defining moment

This time round, a key focus of our research has been to understand more on the EU Referendum and how the industry has responded in the run up to, and after, the outcome.

Many Scottish producers and manufacturers have relied to a large extent on EU support and labour, and the region is the biggest destination for Scottish food exports, a market worth £724.3 million in 2015.

Add drink exports to the mix and the EU generated revenues of £1.9 billion for Scottish food and drink firms last year, a substantial chunk of the sector’s £5.3 billion export total.

With the dust still to settle from the EU Referendum result, both politically and economically, it would be unwise to seek to predict what the implications of the vote will ultimately be for Scotland’s food and drink industry.

But we can be confident that the sector is starting out on this new phase for Scotland from a position of relative strength.

Driven to succeed

Change can be a great driver, and Scottish firms are clearly driven to succeed. They have a great support network behind them, from trade associations like Scotland Food & Drink, to government, to institutions like Bank of Scotland.

Whatever the uncertainties that lie ahead, there seems little doubt that the food and drink industry will remain fundamental to the ongoing success of the Scottish economy.

• Jane Clark-Hutchison is regional director, mid markets, central Scotland, Bank of Scotland

• This year’s Scotsman Conferences’ food and drink event will examine the potential implications of Brexit on the sector. For more information or to book tickets email: conferences@scotsman.com or give the team a call on 0131 311 7233

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