Scottish fruit and vegetable producers have drawn up a new strategy to boost the industry in response to Brexit.
Business leaders fear it could be hit by a slowdown in European exports and a shortage of workers once the UK leaves the European Union.
The Fruit, Vegetable and Potato Industry Leadership Group wants to support the industry through to 2030.
It said the strategy would benefit the nation’s health and environment – as well as the economy.
The Scottish fruit and vegetable retail market, excluding foodservice, is worth over £1bn.
The leadership group includes a wide range of producers as well as Scotland Food and Drink chief executive James Withers.
Its recommendations include supporting collaboration between smaller producers and farmers, attracting more publicly-funded grants and creating a pilot seasonal agricultural workers scheme.
Scotland’s fruit and vegetable sector:
- Scotland grows a third of the UK’s soft fruit and almost a quarter of the UK’s potatoes
- Vegetable production has risen by 25% over the last 10 years
- The estimated value of exports of fruit, vegetables and potatoes grew from £24m in 2007 to £68m in 2016
- Horticulture provides 10% of Scottish agricultural output, and potatoes a further 7%. This means the sector is larger than cereals or dairy
Source: Scotland Food and Drink
The group’s chairman, Allan Bowie, said there was “huge potential” for the sector to grow.
He added: “We recognise that the fruit, vegetable and potato sector in Scotland is diverse and each sub-sector has its own distinct challenges and opportunities.
“But we believe that if the sector works collectively with a focus on skills, innovation, strengthening the supply chain and developing markets the sector can carve its place in Scotland’s food and drink success story.”
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Scotland has some of the healthiest, freshest and highest quality produce anywhere in the world, and there are exciting opportunities ahead for our growers and producers across the fruit, vegetable and potato sector.
“There is no doubt that we face challenges, particularly relating to Brexit, but this sector has huge potential if we can increase consumption, displace imports, and capitalise on our reputation internationally.”