The importance of the food and drink sector to the Scottish economy is well recognised politically, reflected in the fact that it is now one of the six priority industries supported by Scottish Enterprise, the main economic development agency for Scotland.

The Scottish Food and Drink Strategy has clearly set out what needs to be done if we are to have a strong, sustainable and profitable industry for the future and, indeed, if we are to maintain that importance within the economy. 'Younger' industries with good growth potential, such as life sciences and digital media, continue to be successful in this area. The strategy identifies our excellent raw material as a key asset. Whether it be meat, fish, oats, berries, vegetables or milk, it's what helps make us distinctive in Scotland and gives us a unique selling point.

But urgent action is needed if our farmers and fishermen are to operate on a profitable basis to supply the excellent raw materials for our food and drink industry. We all need to do what we can to keep these industries strong, growing and investing. For without our farmers and fishermen supplying our raw materials, we all stand to lose - processors, retailers, government and consumers.

And to do this we need all parts of the chain working to a common agenda. We are working hard in Scotland - both the private and public sector - to connect the different parts of the supply chain more easily and to ensure that all elements are working together to deliver what the market requires. As with all strategy and documents, it's easy to write the words - much harder to make them a reality. But what we've achieved in Scotland is a level of dialogue and relationship-building that many others countries envy, as well as a real commitment to give fishermen and farmers the confidence that there is a strong market out there, with profitable opportunities that make it worthwhile to be in the business of producing food.

I believe there is a very positive and optimistic future ahead with global food trends in our favour, an unprecedented interest in locally produced foods, producers and value added processors continually innovating and stimulating the market and a range of strong international Scottish brands. But to fully grasp these opportunities, it needs whole supply chain collaboration.

Never has it been more important for the Scottish food and drink supply chain to work together to ensure we have a profitable and sustainable industry for future generations.n