Figures reveal Scottish salmon is UK’s biggest fresh food export

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New HMRC figures have shown that Scottish salmon is the UK’s biggest fresh food export but the sector is facing continued challenges following Covid and Brexit.

International sales of Scottish salmon were valued at £280million in the first half of 2022, with France accounting for more than half of the total. However, this was down by around 8 per cent compared to 2021, across both EU sales and non-EU sales.

Trade body Salmon Scotland said this has been offset by increased demand at home, with the impact of the pandemic resulting in a shift with some salmon destined for international markets instead sent to UK retailers.

Separate data estimates that sales of salmon in UK shops soared to £1.1billion in 2021 as British consumers increased their consumption of the protein-rich product, making it the country’s most popular fish.

The farm-raised salmon sector delivers 2,500 direct jobs in Scotland, supporting more than 3,600 domestic suppliers, and a total of more than 12,000 jobs dependent on the sector. With the nutritional value of Scottish salmon increasingly recognised, along with its low carbon footprint and sustainability measures, there is potential for further growth in the sector.

But farmers and producers have faced a number of challenges in recent months, including bad weather at the start of the year affecting harvests, post-Brexit and pandemic-induced labour shortages, cross-Channel delays and a cumbersome regulation system in Scotland that needs urgent reform and streamlining.

Salmon Scotland has called on the Scottish and UK governments to take action to support the sector, ensuring it can continue to grow and provide more local jobs in Scotland and more revenue for the UK economy.

This includes:

  • A streamlined regulatory system in Scotland along the lines of the Norwegian model.
  • Measures to address planning hold-ups for new salmon farms.
  • A change to key worker definitions to tackle the post-Brexit labour shortage.
  • A solution to cross-Channel delays and avoidance of any trade war with Europe.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “There is strong international demand for our unrivalled farm-raised Scottish salmon, making it the UK’s biggest and most important food export.

“These export sales deliver a massive economic benefit for rural and coastal communities in Scotland, supporting thousands of highly-skilled, well-paid jobs, and helping local areas to thrive, while delivering millions for the UK economy.

“And everyone in Scotland can be proud that we produce such a high-quality nutritious product with rigorous environmental and welfare standards and the lowest carbon footprint of any protein-based sector.

“But, like many sectors, we face continued challenges following Covid and Brexit.

“With Scottish Government reform of the cluttered regulatory landscape, and UK Government reform of labour rules and the cross-Channel set-up, we will be able to deliver further sustainable growth to support our most isolated communities.”

Salmon Scotland has written to Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak ahead of tomorrow’s Perth hustings to highlight government action needed to support vital growth.

Despite growing worldwide demand for the high-protein fish, the labour pool has shrunk in recent years with many key workers returning to eastern Europe post-Brexit.

And there are ongoing concerns that changes to the Northern Ireland protocol could lead to retaliatory action by the EU, causing increased friction at the border, delays and queues for hauliers crossing to France, or extra costs for exporters.

Tavish Scott said: “Our businesses are vital to the economic performance of the UK – not only in economically fragile coastal and rural areas, but across the length and breadth of the country in processing, engineering, science and technology industries.”

Salmon Scotland is calling on the next Prime Minister to embrace a “more enlightened approach to the movement of labour into the UK”, including a change to key worker definitions, changes to the salary cap level, and a broader public signal that the UK is open to people coming here to work.

The trade body also wants a “serious, pragmatic approach” to negotiations with the EU, avoiding a so-called ‘trade war’, with a “clear focus on the nation’s export businesses who depend on a positive, professional relationship with France and the other countries of the EU”.

Tavish Scott, Chief Executive, Salmon Scotland

Mr Scott’s letters to Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak reads:

“Our businesses are vital to the economic performance of the UK – not only in economically fragile coastal and rural areas, but across the length and breadth of the country in processing, engineering, science and technology industries.

“In that spirit our sector has two specific asks…

“Labour shortages in our processing businesses are acute. We would urge you to embrace a more enlightened approach to the movement of labour into the UK so as to assist business.

“Steps could include a change to key worker definitions, changes to the salary cap level and a broader public signal that the UK is open to people and thus to business.

“No change to the current UK Government approach and the attitude in particular of the Home Office is a clear threat to business competitiveness against our main international competitors.

“We would urge a more pragmatic and business friendly approach.”

He adds:

“Maintaining and enhancing our export position to the EU and wider European markets is of considerable importance to our businesses…

“Any escalation of EU-UK negotiations over the Northern Ireland protocol is high on our industry risk register.

“Continuous access to our main markets in Europe is vital for the UK’s food and drink export success story.

“Our ask is that a pragmatic approach is taken to these negotiations by the UK Government.

“No UK export business needs a trade war or even any such suggestion between the UK and the EU.

“We would urge you to deploy a serious, pragmatic approach to these negotiations with a clear focus on the nation’s export businesses who depend on a positive, professional relationship with France and the other countries of the EU.”

 

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