Agriculture and rural development

Combine harvester in field

Food, drink and agriculture are a significant part of North East Scotland's economy, with more than 22,000 people employed in the sector:

  • 51% in agriculture
  • 32% in food manufacturing
  • 11% in fishing
  • 6% in drinks and beverages

The north east accounts for less than 12% of Scotland’s agricultural area but produces over 20% of Scotland’s agricultural output. For specific sectors of agriculture the north east has high shares of activity: 

  • 33% of cereals
  • 29% of beef cattle
  • 57% of pigs
  • 32% of oilseed rape
  • over 33% of Scotland’s beef cattle
  • 60% of Scotland’s malting barley 

Agricultural and its associated industries are an important sector for our area and we are committed to supporting its development. The council provides access to information and contacts both nationally and internationally through The North East Scotland Agriculture Advisory Group.


Although forest cover in the area is only just above the national average of 18%, some parts of Aberdeenshire have levels of tree cover of over 30% and the planting of improved genotypes has ensured that many of the forests enjoy above average rates of productivity, helping to support an estimated 700 direct jobs in the sector.

We have, along with partners, developed a Forestry and Woodlands Strategy which aims to safeguard and expand the area’s forest assets.

The Strategy’s Vision is that: the forestry and woodlands of the Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan area are resilient to the effects of climate change, protect and enhance the environment, habitats, species and local culture, benefit and support the local and national economy and are valued and enjoyed by people, both residents and visitors.

We work in partnership with stakeholders to promote excellence in sustainable forest management practice and to add value to sawmill co-products through developing markets for wood fuel. We see wood fuel as being a key source of affordable heating in off-grid gas areas and a major weapon in combating fuel poverty. The wood fuel market is a valuable outlet for forest thinnings; their timely removal enhances the quality and value of the final timber crop.

Scottish timber is used extensively in the construction sector. Aberdeenshire is home to three of the country’s leading timber-frame manufacturers – timber framed houses now account for approximately 75% of the new build market in Scotland. We are also active in promoting the recreational and environmental benefits of woodlands. 

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