Fish talks

Salmon chief ‘hopeful’ of Channel action

Tavish Scott and Victoria Prentis
Victoria Prentis with Tavish Scott in Shetland

Scotland’s salmon sector leaders were hopeful of a breakthrough in the Channel log-jam which has delayed the delivery of millions of pounds of fresh produce into European markets.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of trade body Salmon Scotland, said talks held in Shetland with UK Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis had been “constructive”.

Mr Scott stressed that disruption at border controls which has led to long delays for hauliers crossing into France was putting businesses and jobs at risk.

Fresh salmon from Scotland will normally arrive in France the following morning, but in recent weeks there have been delays of up to 48 hours due to queues on the UK side of the Channel – and there are concerns of repeat problems.

Scottish salmon is the UK’s biggest food export, generating more than £600 million for the UK economy through foreign sales alone. France is the top market for the fish, where it holds prestigious status with chefs and restaurants.

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Salmon Scotland has called on the UK Government to introduce immediate contingency plans for perishable goods to have priority status when delays occur at peak times such as the summer holidays.

It says there is a need for a longer-term permanent post-Brexit solution after schools return, with extra capacity in place to avoid delays for all transport, and flexibility built in to adapt for shifts in demand.

Scottish salmon competes in the European marketplace with Norway, which is not experiencing the same disruption to exports.

The sector directly employs 2,500 people in Scotland and supports more than 3,600 suppliers, with a further 10,000 jobs dependent on farm-raised salmon.

Ms Prentis also met with salmon producers Scottish Sea Farms and Cooke Aquaculture Scotland, which together make up around 20% of Shetland’s economy.

After the meeting, Mr Scott, said: “As the UK’s biggest food export, it is vital for jobs in Scotland and for the UK economy that we avoid any hold-ups at the Channel.

“We have urged the UK Government to prioritise the movement of perishable goods. Following today’s constructive meeting, we are hopeful of swift action.”

Until the recent problems, Scottish salmon had made a good recovery from the pandemic and, despite SNP complaints over the impact of Brexit, it has largely overcome many of the problems initially encountered by Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

Scottish salmon exports recovered to near-record figures in 2021, increasing to £614m – up 36% compared to 2020 and only marginally below the £618m recorded in 2019.

The EU accounted for 61% of the volume of global Scottish salmon exports (£372m).

Exports were shipped to 52 different markets last year, with growth across 10 of the top 20.

France, which has been blamed by the UK government for the recent hold-ups, led the recovery (up £119m to £304m), followed by the US as the second main market (up £47m to £152m) and China (up £31million to £45million).

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