Humza Yousaf told 'urgent action needed to support food and drink sector'

The ongoing cost of living crisis is putting pressure on the industry. Credit: PA

Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf is being challenged to take urgent action to support food and drinks firms during "challenging times".

Industry leaders at the Food and Drink Federation Scotland have written to Humza Yousaf making a series of key demands.

They welcomed the commitment from the First Minister to "reset" the relationship between the government and business.

But with the sector dealing with record high food inflation, they made a number of key asks of the First Minister and his government.

These include ditching proposals for new restrictions on price promotions for junk food, which were consulted on last year.

Such a move would "further drive up food prices, disproportionately impacting lower income households," federation chief executive David Thomson argued.

His letter to the First Minister also demanded the government "scrap plans for food and drink producers to pay for cleaning up of illegal ground littering in Scotland as part of the wider extended producer responsibility policy".

Humza Yousaf took over as First Minister from Nicola Sturgeon. Credit: PA

And he said the government must work with drinks firms to "ensure a successful, deposit return scheme that retains the confidence of our industry and the public".

All these policies could "impact the viability of our vital food and drink producers" and "need  to be reviewed urgently", Mr Thomson insisted.

In the letter to the First Minister, he outlined the challenges facing the food and drink sector, telling Mr Yousaf: "Food and drink inflation has hit a record high of 19.2% with devastating impacts on Scottish households and businesses."

As well as impacting households, Mr Thomson said this damaged the "resilience of Scotland's food and drink industry".

He stated: "Our food and drink manufacturers are doing everything they can to keep the price of food and drink affordable, absorbing rising input costs where possible.

"Now we need urgent action from the Scottish Government to support a hard-pressed sector."

Mr Thomson also called on the Scottish Government to continue to fund the reformulation for health programme, saying that this scheme, since its launch in 2019, had "removed hundreds of millions of calories from everyday food and drink".

Mr Yousaf was told: "Continued support will help more food producers make their food healthier and consumers eat more healthily."

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon said:“The Scottish Government shares Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Scotland’s concerns about the impact of food inflation on families and communities. This is largely the result of Brexit imposed on Scotland by the UK Government and by its economic mismanagement, resulting in unprecedented challenges.

“The cost of living crisis it has created is also causing significant pressures on food producers and manufacturers.

"And while we are doing all we can with the resources we have to support businesses, we are also mindful of the need to use powers and available funds to help make Scotland healthier, greener and fairer.

“We will consider the detail of FDF Scotland’s proposals and engage with them to discuss how we can strike the right balance on reform, and help Scotland’s food and drink sector survive the current inflationary crisis.”

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