More needed to be done to protect sector worth £1.2bn to region's economy
Food and drink is now the largest, fastest growing and most valuable economic sector in Dumfries and Galloway.
The industry is worth £1.2bn while employing more than 9,000 people – a figure that does not include local butchers, bakers and farm shops.
However, Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson wants more to be done to ensure this sector remains the engine of the region’s economy.
Mr Carson said: “A recent survey revealed 84 per cent of people now want to buy more local food and drink than they did previously – which I am sure is welcome news.
“This is backed up by a survey carried out in Dumfries and Galloway that found growing numbers now intended to buy directly from producers and retailers within their communities.”
He argues more needs to be done to assist High Street shops with greater rates relief required to stem the six-year high is closures.
Mr Carson said: “Meaningful support must be given to improving local infrastructure, a problem that’s particularly acute in my constituency, where despite having one of the biggest beef and lamb producing areas in Scotland – it doesn’t have its own abattoir.
“We must use the power of the public purse to support local producers, not centralising procurement for marginal price-per-unit gains that benefit no-one – and crucially often works against producers like Galloway dairy farmers.
“Local food and drink producers must be supported by a boots-on-the-ground approach – and not a one-size-fits-all growth pathway that misunderstands the drivers of rural enterprise.
“Diversity within the marketplace needs to be recognised and encouraged at all times. The success of the Galloway Cattle Society who have turned around the fortunes of the once at-risk native breed has shown this.”
Mr Carson also praised the collaborative approach of Dumfries and Galloway Farmers’ and Community Markets Association, a network of around a dozen community markets that has created trading opportunities for more than 70 businesses, sharing knowledge, equipment and expertise.