UK wants easy movement of fish

nigel edwards

THE British government is striving to achieve the frictionless movement of seafood and other commodities, Nigel Edwards, technical and social responsibility director of Seachill, told the Norwegian Seafood Council summit in London.
The conference, held last week, was called by the council to discuss the impact of Brexit and developing trends among consumers.
It attracted more than 200 delegates, including 160 from Norway, the UK, France and Russia. The council described the event as a great success and a valued opportunity to bring the supply chain together to better the industry.
It also emerged that Norway is keen to avoid any impasse by striking immediate post Brexit deals with both the EU and the UK.
Britain is one of its most important markets for both salmon and white fish – and is growing.
There was also tacit acknowledgement that Norway needed to do more to develop its internet sales mechanism.
Edwards (pictured), who was also representing the UK Industry Seafood Alliance, which includes his own company and other big players such as Young\’s, said the industry was anxious to avoid both tariff and non-tariff barriers.
‘That is still subject to negotiation and an important aspect of the next round of EU-UK talks,’ he said.
‘There are border implications of the UK having to apply a hard frontier to all imports but it can decide how the inspection regime will be implemented.’
He pointed out that UK seafood processors had a combined turnover of £4.2 billion and employed some 14,000 people, a significant percentage of which were EU nationals.
But the bulk of raw material – 90 per cent in the case of cod – came from outside the EU. This meant total EU white fish catches were only around 500,000 tonnes against a market need of three million tonnes.
‘So regardless of who catches what in UK/EU waters, maintaining existing trade flows is essential to meeting consumer needs across the EU and maintaining market share against competing proteins.’
Edwards said both the UK and Norway processing sectors depended heavily on migrant and seasonal workers from the EU.
It was important, therefore, that fish workers should be regarded as highly skilled workers, allowing appropriate movement if a labour shortage was to be avoided. He did not think automation could fill the gap.
He stressed that the industry had to be prepared for what was coming and this included providing trade data to support impact assessments and negotiation and to prepare for new customs and trade relations.
It was also important to stay engaged with European trade groups and remain optimistic.
‘Seafood is the most widely traded commodity and our consumers love it,’ he told the audience.
‘It is our collective responsibility to ensure they have access to the seafood they want and at prices they can afford.’


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