NFU Scotland announced today (Tuesday 31 May) that its Chief Executive James Withers is to join Scotland Food & Drink as its new CEO.
After 12 years with NFUS, three as Chief Executive, Mr Withers will leave the organisation and take up the exciting role at Scotland Food & Drink in September. A process to appoint his successor at NFUS will begin shortly.
NFUS President Nigel Miller said:
“While losing someone of James’ calibre is a blow to the organisation, the good news for members of NFU Scotland is that he will remain a hugely influential figure within our industry. Scotland Food & Drink has a target of growing the value of our food and drink sector to £12.5 billion by 2017. Scottish farmers and crofters, as food producers, will be at the core of that vision and will share in the benefits of value being added to our produce.
“Based on our experience, James will undoubtedly bring great vision and tremendous commitment to developing and growing Scotland Food & Drink. Since he started as a graduate trainee at NFUS in 1999, he has gone on to generate a substantial legacy from each of the positions he has held at head office.
“His early days in parliamentary affairs laid down the foundation of NFU Scotland’s successful relationship with the new Scottish Parliament and its ministers. In his time as Communications Director, he modernised the way the Union addressed its members, the wider industry, the media and the general public, significantly boosting the profile of NFU Scotland. Since his appointment as Chief Executive three years ago, he has delivered financial stability to the business while using funds wisely to grow NFUS as a member-led organisation with a much stronger regional base.
“James’ recent work on a forward strategy and business plan for the Union means that he leaves NFU Scotland in rude health with an excellent platform for any successor to build on. We wish James every success in his new role, we look forward to working with him on growing Scotland’s blossoming food and drink sector and we will crack on with the job of seeking a new Chief Executive for NFU Scotland in due course.
“Having James in place for the next few months will be a big benefit and help ensure that we find the right person to lead the Union as we head forward.”
James will commence his role at Scotland Food & Drink in September and he will play an important role in leading the industry into a successful future by pushing to the target of growing the industry from a value of £10bn to £12.5bn by 2017. He will also be crucial in implementing the industry strategy of exploiting the growth areas of premium, provenance and health.
Chairman of Scotland Food & Drink, Ray Jones said:
"James is one of the most highly regarded and knowledgeable individuals in the Scottish food and drink industry and I am delighted to be welcoming him to the team. His experience at NFU Scotland will stand him in excellent stead to lead the team at Scotland Food & Drink and guide the industry to reach our ambitious growth targets.
"James is joining Scotland Food & Drink at a pivotal time. We have a number of exciting new projects in the pipeline that will enhance the industry's reputation across the globe and improve working practices and profitability for companies of all sizes."
Mr Withers said:
“It is with a great deal of mixed emotions that I leave NFUS. I am hugely excited about the opportunity at Scotland Food & Drink, an organisation that can spearhead the growth of the industry in the coming years. Of course, taking up that position comes at the price of leaving an organisation and a group of dedicated colleagues that I have worked with for 12 years.
“In many ways though, this was an opportunity I felt was too good to miss. I have spent a long time working on behalf of food producers and I can now take that experience and broaden it across the whole food and drink sector. Many of the committed individuals and organisations that make up Scotland’s food and drink industry are well known to me and being able to continue working with them – albeit in a different capacity – was a real attraction of this job.
“I am hugely passionate about our food and drink industry; it is already a success story but the potential still remains enormous. The outgoing CEO, Paul McLaughlin, has done a great job in creating a solid foundation for Scotland Food & Drink. I look forward to working with its board, staff and members in taking it forward over the coming years.
“I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to NFUS, its staff, members and office-holders. I know I am leaving an organisation that is in extremely good heart and one which will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of Scottish agriculture and rural communities in the years to come.”