WITH no little irony, on the day that the Scottish Government warned of Brexit’s threats to our soaring food and drink industries, the UK Government promoted the consultation on whether Scottish wild venison should get European protection.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) published on its website the consultation document which the Scottish Government has prepared in order for Scottish wild venison to get Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, similar to that enjoyed by Scotch whisky and Scotch beef, under the European Union’s Protected Food Name (PFN) scheme.

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The Scottish Goverment estimates that PFN status, on average, increases a product’s value 2.23 times.

A source in the venison industry confirmed that some 2500 tonnes of Scottish wild venison per year would be covered by the PFN scheme.

He said: “Although we don’t know if the protection will continue after Brexit, we would still like to see it for Scottish wild venison so that we at least have protection in Britain.”

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Defra said: “The consultation ends on May 29, 2018. The EU protected food name scheme covers regional and traditional foods whose authenticity and origin can be guaranteed.

“The EU will only give a product the PGI mark if they decide it has a reputation, characteristics or qualities that are a result of the area it’s associated with.”

Defra is the “responsible department in the member state” which must formally apply for PGI, and it is currently doing so for products as diverse as Devon cider, Forfar bridies, and Cambrian (Welsh) lamb.

Yet it is extremely unclear whether PGI status will continue after Brexit for any food and drink items in the UK, and this was referred to by Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s Minister for the Rural Economy when he announced increased export figures for Scottish food and drink last year.

Overseas Scottish food and drink exports were worth approximately £6 billion in 2017 – almost £570 million more than 2016. Food exports were valued at about £1.6 billion – a rise of 15 per cent or £214 million during the same period. Exports of food to Europe were worth £1.1bn after an increase of 13 per cent or £125m.

Fish and seafood accounted for the majority of food exports and were worth approximately £944m, up 23 per cent from last year. Scotch whisky exports also increased by around £356m compared to 2016.

Fergus Ewing said: “Scottish food and drink exports are at an all-time high – with world-renowned Scottish goods like salmon and whisky being consumed across the globe at record levels. That’s due in part to sectors working together to sell our remarkable products, and creating or enhancing our national brands.

“The statistics highlight the importance of the EU single market to our food and drink success, with the EU buying more than 40 per cent of our produce. The continuing uncertainty surrounding the UK Government’s Brexit plans, and the prospect of losing tariff-free access to that market would be potentially devastating for our food and drink industry.

“Confirmation by the UK Government that it wants devolved powers over food labelling to transfer to them creates further risk and uncertainty, when much of our success depends on our ability to market Scottish produce and provenance effectively. That’s potentially a huge problem in the long term to our food and drink sector, who share our ambition for further expansion, and to protect our national brands.

“The Scottish Government is doing all we can to support the growth of food and drink exports: working with key sectors to develop new and existing markets, boosting innovation and skills, and supporting Scotland’s local producers via business rates exemptions and grants for example.

“Our aim is to support the food and drink industry’s ambitions to double its value to £30bn by 2030.”

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, said: “The world is increasingly developing a taste for Scottish produce and it is driving incredible growth for Scottish food and drink businesses and the economy as a whole.”