There is just one day to go until the start of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
It's the largest event ever staged in Scotland, with an expected global audience of 1.5 billion, and is the perfect platform to showcase Scotland's fantastic food and drink.
More than two million meals will be served at the Games; that's two million opportunities to serve up the finest food and drink Scotland has to offer to athletes, team officials, spectators and the media from across the globe. We have an outstanding natural larder with impeccable credentials for provenance. The quality of the food and drink produced here is among the best to be found anywhere in the world.
Tasty tatties from Angus, fresh salmon from Shetland, juicy strawberries from Perthshire and traditional dairy ice cream from Ayrshire are just some of the world-class products that will feature in Games dishes.
Every single morsel on the Glasgow 2014 menu is underpinned by the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Food Charter which I helped launch last year. All of the meals served at venues, the Athletes' Village and Festival 2014 Live Zones will be local food, where possible, from sustainable and traceable sources offering ethical, safe, and healthy choices. These principles and standards should serve as the basis for other events in future and will be at the core of Scotland's journey to becoming a Good Food Nation.
Of course, as well as the Commonwealth Games, Scotland is also hosting the Ryder Cup and celebrating our second Year of Homecoming this year, with 2015 Scotland's Year of Food and Drink.
Together these represent an unprecedented economic opportunity for Scottish food and drink, which is already the largest industry sector in Scotland supporting 330,000 jobs and generating a turnover of £13.1 billion.
It's anticipated that visitors to Scotland in 2014 will spend almost £33 million on food and drink at events while Scottish food and drink suppliers are benefiting from the fact that more than two thirds of all Games-related contracts, worth a total of £287m, have gone to Scottish businesses.
We know that visitors are willing to pay a premium of up to 20 per cent for fresh local food and, with an additional 100,000 visitors expected in the three years following the Commonwealth Games, it's clearly crucial that all across Scotland we continue to show off the delicious local produce we have on our doorstep. Building on our reputation as providers of world- class food and drink is also about developing our export market.
Food and drink is Scotland's fastest growing export sector, worth about £5.4bn last year. We export food and drink to more than 180 countries and there is huge potential for expansion into new and emerging markets. In March, I launched the Scotland Food & Drink export strategy, a transformational plan developed jointly by the industry and Government to cement Scotland's international reputation as a land of food and drink and to drive new levels of export activity.
Just one example of the work we are doing is this week's Showcasing Scotland event in Dunblane. It's the first large-scale event of its kind for the food and drink sector and is using the fantastic opportunity offered by the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games to bring together Scottish food and drink companies, with 65 buyers from across the UK and key export markets.
This is an exciting time for Scotland's food and drink industry, which is already a huge success story having smashed its export and turnover targets six years ahead of schedule.
But we are not going to rest on our laurels. We must capitalise on the opportunities that this year has to offer, starting right with the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
For many in this industry and others, the preparation for this year started some time ago. It's great to have been involved in this process, and I have no doubt it will pay off.
We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules
Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.