£10m support for seafood sector ‘on its knees’

Fergus Ewing - seafood processors are the lifeblood of many rural and coastal communities

THE Scottish government has announced a £10 million funding package to help seafood businesses weather the coronavirus crisis.

With many firms fighting for survival, and in turn threatening livelihoods in coastal communities, the Scottish Seafood Business Resilience Fund will provide a combination of grants and loans to businesses, it was revealed today.

The shutdown of international markets has led to a collapse in exports, while the closure of the food service industry across the UK has had a devastating impact.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: ‘The Scottish government is working flat out to support businesses which are adversely affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.

‘Parts of the seafood sector have been decimated by the collapse of the export and hospitality markets, and are now struggling to survive.

‘Our seafood processors are the lifeblood of many rural and coastal communities, supporting thousands of local jobs and producing some of the finest seafood in the world.

‘The industry has been very clear that cash flow is the critical issue facing businesses and this new fund seeks to inject capital into businesses to help them meet their ongoing costs, keep the business solvent and keep people on the payroll.’

The minister added: ‘Our approach is rightly focused on those businesses who may need our support the most, and we would encourage others that can step in to help, to do so.

‘I am also exploring how supermarkets and other retailers might help ensure more of Scotland’s seafood reaches Scottish consumers to help create alternative markets.

‘I continue to have regular discussions with the industry during this time and I pay tribute to the leadership shown by the Scottish Seafood Association and Seafood Scotland.

‘We will now move to get these funds out of the door as quickly as possible to assist a sector which has been a real success story for the Scottish economy.’

Donna Fordyce, interim head of Seafood Scotland said: ‘Following the Scottish government’s recent announcement of financial aid for the fishing sector, this package of support for the wider seafood industry is critical to its survival, and very much welcome.

‘We have spent the last two weeks speaking to seafood businesses all over Scotland, and these measures are just what they have been asking for.

‘The sector is one of the most fragile areas of Scotland’s economy, yet delivers so much in terms of employment and export effort.

‘With most export routes almost entirely closed off and around 80 per cent of shellfish and seafood normally destined for international markets, the industry is currently on its knees, but this package will help many seafood businesses live beyond the impact of Covid-19.’

Jimmy Buchan, chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association, said: ‘We obviously welcome the funding package announced today by the Scottish government as a measure of its intent to support the sector at this time of need.

‘Clearly SSA members are keen to learn more of the detail about how the scheme will operate, particularly the eligibility criteria, and we look forward to engaging with officials on that in the coming days.’