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Food For Thought at Highland Conference (07/11/08)
Local food in the Highlands was the flavour of the day today (Friday) at a conference organised in Inverness by The Highland Council’s Planning and Development Service which attracted over 90 participants from across the Highlands and Islands.
The “Local Food in the Highlands” conference was targeted at all those involved in making local food available in The Highland Council area – producers, processors, distributors and buyers - and included a keynote address from Richard Lochhead MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment in the Scottish Government.
A series of presentations and workshops focused on how best to:
• bring together those involved in production of local food and its distribution with those involved in public procurement.
• promote the benefits of procuring local food and linkages with the tourism industry in support of Homecoming Scotland 2009.
• investigate ways in which more local food can be made available in the Highland area.
• provide further evidence for the Scottish Government’s development of a national Food and Drink Policy.
Mr Lochhead said: “The food and drink sector in the Highlands and Islands generates sales in excess of £600 million each year and supports more than 10,000 jobs across the region. Supporting our Scottish food and drink industry to help achieve further development is essential for the sustainable growth of both the sector and the economy as a whole. In the past year, there has been a growing interest in the provenance of what we eat - people want to know where their food comes from, how it was grown and its impact on the environment. We have taken major steps towards developing our first-ever national food and drink policy to further boost the industry and help break down the barriers to sourcing local food through both the private and public sector.
"The Highlands and Islands is renowned for its top-quality produce with local success stories ranging from the Really Garlicky company and Mey Selections, to tried and trusted products such as Stornoway black pudding and fresh seafood. As part of Homecoming 2009, we want to celebrate and enhance the reputation of Scotland’s food and drink. Our food and drink is up among the best in the world so we need to ensure those returning home next year get to sample it and become international ambassadors for our industry.”
Councillor Ian Ross, Chairman of Planning, Environment and Development on The Highland Council, who co-chaired the conference with Councillor Isobel McCallum, Chairman of the Council’s Land Environment and Sustainability Strategy Group, said: “This is an opportunity for food producers from across the Highlands to demonstrate the diverse range of high quality food products which are grown and processed in our area. We need to make better connections with larger scale buyers and identify and resolve any barriers to opening up additional market opportunities. We also need to encourage larger organisations to have more open and creative approaches to food procurement and to fully recognise the very real benefits which come from sourcing food locally.
“Local food procurement can generate a great many benefits – it contributes to local economic development and is invariably an example of good sustainability practice and results in reduced “food miles” and packaging, which improves our carbon footprint. There can be strong links to tourism and it can help promote a strong positive local identity and offer an improved visitor experience. We quite rightly attach great importance to healthy eating as part of general health improvement and local food is invariably of high quality and contributes to a balanced health diet.
“The conference will allow a positive focus on the many positive opportunities associated with local food production. It has been timed to contribute to the Scottish Government’s developing National Food Policy and we are very pleased that Richard Lochhead MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment, has been able to join us. The conference will also inform future work by the Highland Council’s Land Environment and Sustainability Strategy Group.”
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For further information, please contact Gordon Fyfe, Public Relations Manager, The Highland Council, tel 01463 702020.