Red tape, delays and depressed prices following the end of the Brexit transition period have cost Scotland’s salmon producers £11m in January and February alone. That is the calculation of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO).
The losses are due, the SSPO said, to lost loads thanks to consignments being rejected or held up at customs in France; cancelled contracts because customers require speedier delivery or better reliability than UK producers can offer at present; and depressed prices, because when seafood takes longer to reach its market, it carries less of a premium.
The overall figure includes an extra £200,000 in costs arising from additional export documentation, logistics, administrative and veterinary costs.
The SSPO also estimates that the sector has suffered an immediate loss of sales to the tune of 1,500 tonnes of product, while producers have also delayed harvest of 700 tonnes of fish as a result of the delays and uncertainty.
The figures are being presented to the second meeting of the Scottish Seafood Exports Taskforce, set up to find solutions to the Scottish seafood sector’s export problems.
SSPO Chief Executive Tavish Scott said: “This cannot be the ‘new normal’. Our members cannot guarantee reliable delivery times to the European Union, which is our biggest overseas market. The systems need to be streamlined and a lighter touch adopted on all sides to make sure we can continue to serve our European customers as we have in the past. If not, they will go elsewhere and we will lose both trade and customers.
“We are calling on both the UK and Scottish governments to work together with us and with the supply chain to make sure there are no more blockages in the system which prevent our members from getting their fish to market on time.”
Meanwhile, the UK and Scottish governments are apparently at odds regarding the two respective compensation schemes set up to help smaller producers affected by the export difficulties and by the Covid-19 pandemic.
UK government Minister for Scotland David Duguid has written to seafood industry leaders updating them on efforts to resolve issues around exports and highlighting the financial assistance the UK government has made available to those who have incurred losses.
He said: “Ongoing engagement with the industry has helped us identify specific problems that have been causing difficulties since the end of the post-Brexit transition period.
“We are seeing improvements as we seek to ease the journey of world-class Scottish seafood to export markets, but work continues as we try to streamline the process.”
The Scottish government, however, said the UK scheme lacks clarity and has called for to consider withdrawing their scheme in Scotland, and to provide the funding to the Scottish Government to administer in a devolved area instead.
Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “I am concerned there is a lack of understanding of the handling of the two funding schemes and the real world implications in failing to discuss and align the both of them.”