Farmers in ‘Norwegian salmon’ probe

EUROPEAN Union officials visited several Norwegian owned salmon companies in Scotland yesterday to explore alleged anti-competitive behaviour in the sector, according to a report by Undercurrent News.
Grieg, Mowi (formerly Marine Harvest) and Scottish Sea Farms were all subject to inspections, the report said.
But there is some confusion over why Scottish producers were at the centre of enquiries because in a letter apparently sent by the EC to the companies, it was information regarding Norwegian farmed salmon that prompted the move.
Letters were reportedly sent by the EC earlier this month notifying some of the companies that there would be inspections in February.
The letter said the commission had received information ‘alleging that some Norwegian producers of farmed Norwegian Atlantic salmon’ had participated in ‘anti-competitive agreements’.
Norway is not an EU member state and as an EEA (European Economic Area) country is not under the same EU jurisdiction as the UK.
The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) said today it believed the focus of the investigation was outside Scotland.
\’The SSPO is aware of the inspections carried out by EC officials at premises belonging to salmon companies in relation to allegations of anti-competitive practices,\’ said the organisation in a statement.
\’However, we understand the focus of the investigation is another jurisdiction, not Scotland.
\’The companies concerned are co-operating fully with the investigatory authorities and all further inquiries should be referred to the EC.\’
A spokesperson for Scottish Sea Farms said: ‘We can confirm that we, like other Norwegian owned companies in Scotland, have been visited by EC officials and are cooperating fully.’
Grieg said: ‘The European Commission DG (Directorate-General for) Competition has today performed an inspection at Grieg Seafood Shetland to explore potential anti-competitive behaviour in the salmon industry.
‘Grieg Seafood aims to be open, transparent and forthcoming and will provide all necessary information requested by the European Commission DG Competition in its investigation.’
An EC statement said: ‘The European Commission can confirm that on 19 February 2019 its officials carried out unannounced inspections in several Member States at the premises of several companies in the sector of farmed Atlantic salmon.
‘The Commission has concerns that the inspected companies may have violated EU anti-trust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union). The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities.
‘Unannounced inspections are a preliminary investigatory step into suspected anti-competitive practices. The fact that the Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself.
‘The Commission respects the rights of defence, in particular the right of companies to be heard in anti-trust proceedings.
‘There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anti-competitive conduct. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the companies concerned co-operate with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence.’


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