Seafood firms ‘ineligible’ for £23m support scheme
Donna Fordyce: ‘the industry is disappointed’
Seafood firms hoping a £23 million government support scheme would help keep them in business are being told they are not eligible to claim.
The UK government’s Seafood Disruption Support Scheme went live today (Tuesday) to cover up to £100,000 of losses caused by delays getting fresh and live fish and shellfish to the EU during January 2021.
But Donna Fordyce, chief executive of Seafood Scotland said companies had hoped the £23m would go some way to alleviating the pressure, while the existing problems could be resolved.
“The initial industry feedback today is one of disappointment, with many companies instantly realising they will be ineligible for support.
“This includes companies that have simply had to stop trying because their product has not been getting through. Or, seafood businesses whose long-standing orders from customers in the EU have dried up because of the export crisis.”
She added: “Companies cannot produce health certificates and other documentation for orders never made because of a lack of customer confidence that product would reach the EU on time, and in peak condition.”
Ms Fordyce said that since 1 January, seafood exports have slowed to a trickle as companies struggle to navigate systems that are “not fit for purpose, being tested in real time, and are creating an intractable barrier to trade”
She said: “Some companies have even given up trying and have put their businesses on ice for the time being, at great financial suffering to their owners, staff, families, and communities.
“It’s probable that these companies will never be fully compensated for what they have lost and are still losing, but the damage could still be limited if the systems were workable and export gets back on track quickly.”
Scottish Office minister David Duguid said: “While recognising that huge efforts went into preparing for the required changes as we exited the EU, there are many who have incurred losses through no fault of their own.
“The UK Government is, therefore, stepping up with the Seafood Disruption Support Scheme.”
The UK Government said it is also offering targeted support to help exporters with new processes. This includes the Seafood Exports Working Group, meeting twice a week to troubleshoot issues raised by the industry.
Following criticism that the Scottish industry and government had been left out there is now a newly-established Scottish Seafood Exports Task Force.
Meeting for the first time this week, the taskforce will draw together government officials and industry representatives from the catching, processing and aquaculture sectors to specifically driving forward the seafood sector in Scotland.
The UK government said the fishing and seafood sector is also set to benefit from significant government investment with a £100m fund to help modernise fishing fleets, the fish processing industry, and rejuvenate a historic and proud industry in the UK, on top of the £32m that will replace EU funding this year.
The Seafood Disruption Support Scheme, first announced on 19 January is administered by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) on behalf of Defra, is a UK-wide fund offering financial assistance based on a proportion of losses that can be verified up to a maximum of £100,000 per business.
Qualifying businesses for the Seafood Disruption Support Scheme must be registered at Companies House or have evidence that they are a sole trader, partnership or other legal entity, and must meet the following conditions: having fewer than 250 employees, an annual turnover of under £36 million, and less than £18m on their balance sheet.
Applicants must be able to evidence the expected value of the consignment. Shipments affected by export rules that prevent the movement of goods to the EU will be outside the scope of the scheme. The call for applications closes on 28 February 2021 and, if successful, payments are expected to be issued during March. Further eligibility conditions apply and are outlined in the full scheme guidance published on the MMO website.