Pioneering entrepreneur Robert Graham challenges country's dairy industry to 'think big'
A pioneering entrepreneur has challenged his industry to ‘think big’- and is setting the pace by planning a £20 million facility and 600 homes.
Robert Graham of Graham’s the Family Dairy says it’s never been more important than now for Scotland to play to its strengths in response to the economic uncertainty of Brexit.
The MD of Graham’s, the number one Scottish food brand, believes Scotland’s dairy industry can create opportunity that would see Scotland benefit through increased job drivers, stronger international trading relationships and economic resilience.
“Dairy is perfectly positioned to support job creation at a global scale.”, said Robert. “In doing so, the sector can grow Scotland’s GDP, forge career pathways and support education programmes.”
He told BQ: "As a family business that has lived and worked in the Stirling community for over 70 years, we want the very best for our towns and city, and firmly believe that the Airthrey Green development would be transformational for the area and positive for Stirling.
"Not only will this development go a long way to meeting local housing needs, it also enables the delivery of a new, national dairy processing and research facility to be built in Stirling that will create a further 400 local jobs and 50 apprenticeships.
"The project will provide a step-change in our investment and create the much-needed infrastructure to process milk, increase capacity and develop new products. This project will build confidence by providing essential security to support our farming partners and enable us to respond to customer trends.
"The dairy industry faces enormous challenges for a variety of reasons - from volatile global prices, giant international competition and milk processing constraints. Yet at the same time, consumer demand for Scottish food and drink, with its deeply rooted provenance and distinctive local brands is at an all-time high.
"With dairy farm numbers in Scotland at a new low in 2017, it is essential that the Scottish dairy industry continues to grow and thrive in order for the sector to continue - whether through the establishment of new dairy farms and start-up businesses, or through the development of new facilities such as the one planned for Airthrey that will support jobs in the industry."
In 2016, Scotland’s food and drink exports reached a record high of £5.5bn, yet Great Britain is the world’s third largest net importer of dairy by value. 90% of all spreadable butter sold in Scotland is not produced here; for yoghurt, the figure is also around 90%.
To make the most of the market potential at home, Mr Graham is asking for the immediate increase of Scotland’s domestic production capacity: “We need to grow Scotland’s domestic production capacity now, to develop and sell more home-grown products and support businesses.
“As a third-generation family business, we have grown by continually investing in three things: people, brands and modern production facilities. I believe these values apply equally to the Scottish economy.
“However, re-balancing our industrial strategy needs to come swiftly. Increasing Scotland’s domestic processing capacity will be the pipeline for developing new products, boosting innovation, delivering inclusive skills development and improving Scotland’s export. All are central to building a resilient post-Brexit economy.”
“Our company is poised to help drive this forward with a proposed national dairy production, research and education facility in Stirling. Should our housing development with Mactaggart & Mickel Homes be approved, we will not only deliver much needed housing and facilities for the local area, we will also facilitate a step change investment strategy, increasing productivity, supporting skills development and accelerating new product innovation.
“Within the UK and the EU, seismic shifts are taking place. With still so much uncertainty, it is easy to understand why that is an unsettling prospect.
But how can we stop the economic uncertainty of Brexit? Scotland’s larder may hold the answer.”