SCOTTISH salmon exports are on course for a record breaking year, set to exceed the £500 million figure reached in 2014.
Earlier this week the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) announced that export sales for the first nine months of 2017 were at £483 million, up 56 per cent over the same period last year, with France overtaking the US as the biggest international market.
‘We fully expect to go over the £500 million mark by the end of the year – this will be a record export year undoubtedly,’ said the SSPO’s chief executive, Scott Landsburgh.
‘And we will be the UK’s largest food export by the end of the year – we are just now and we will still be.’
Looking ahead, he said volumes would be more of a challenge, with production levels in 2018 unlikely to increase, as farmers catch up with health issues.
However, the prospects were brighter for the following year, with new hatcheries coming on stream and a continued move for fish to spend less time in the marine environment and more time in the freshwater environment.
‘I think 2019 will be fantastic for production from what I’ve heard, and I think 2018 may be slightly less than this year or around about the same,’ said Landsburgh.
The industry in Scotland will come under heightened scrutiny next year when a Scottish parliamentary inquiry into salmon farming gets underway.
This was set up following a petition launched in 2016 by the anti-farming lobby group, Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland, and will be conducted by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.
The committee’s convenor, Edward Mountain (Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands), was one of two Holyrood politicians to accept Landsburgh’s invitation, issued before the summer, to visit Scottish salmon farms and see for themselves how they operate.
Mountain and the SNP’s Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) toured Wester Ross Salmon in August, said Landsburgh.
‘There is quite a lot of work going on in the background to prepare the ground for the aquaculture inquiry,’ he said, adding that he expected the committee would start in mid-March, though a date has not yet been set.
The sector is due to establish a 10-year fish health strategy with Marine Scotland before the inquiry begins.
Landsburgh, addressing recent negative press, said changing perceptions takes time and is about ‘trying to be as honest as you can be, and acknowledging that there’s a problem and that we’re trying to fix it’.
‘I believe we are developing our story as we develop our novel interventions in fish health management and it takes time to build that and to become convincing.’
Picture: Scott Landsburgh – novel interventions