Scottish rural affairs secretary, Richard Lochhead led a delegation of 17 firms visiting China and Japan in a bid to boost the £1bn worth of food and drink exports to the region.
Lochhead said: “The Chinese market offers a massive and very exciting opportunity for Scotland’s dairy sector. The food and drink sector is one of our greatest assets and this trade visit provides a fantastic opportunity to showcase the very best of Scottish produce.”
Following meetings between Scottish dairy representatives and one of China’s biggest importers of dairy produce, Lochhead said that work was underway to capitalise on the huge opportunity to grow the sector.
The three dairy firms on the visit are: First Milk, Graham’s Dairy and Milk Link Processing.
Graham’s Dairies, md, Robert Graham, said: "The demand in China for value-added milk products is simply enormous and the company we met today are very keen for Scottish producers to enter the market.
"Graham's are a family business and we have a reputation in the home market for producing high quality dairy goods, but until now we have never entered the export market. The meeting in China today was very positive and we are keen to explore the opportunities further."
A spokesman for the joint initiative between Scottish Development International (SDI) and Scotland Food & Drink said improved standards of living in China had created more of an awareness and demand for dairy products, such as cheese, butter and UHT milk.
“Dairy wasn’t a big seller in China, but has become more popular as the quality of life has improved. This has opened up a great opportunity for Scottish dairy firms to tap into,” he told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
Anne MacColl, SDI, chief executive, who is also on the visit, said: “This mission will allow these companies to take their first steps in exploring the Asian market, and we will continue to work with our leading industry partners and with the Scottish government to support globally ambitious companies to achieve their international potential.”
The visit comes off the back of Scottish food and drink exports to Asia reaching a record high of more than £1bn in 2011, with exports to Japan increasing by 25% year-on-year to £91M.
Furthermore, between 2007 and 2011, food and drink exports increased by 87% to £183M.
This success has resulted in the industry revising its export target of £5.1bn to £7.1bn by 2017 after the initial target was met six years early.
A spokesman said: “The target has gone up by £2bn, because it was met early. We are making good progress to meet the target and if we stay on track we should match it.”
Lochhead added that continuing the expansion into the Chinese and Japanese export markets were the “key to success”.