SCOTLAND’S salmon farmers may share processing facilities as part of contingency measures as coronavirus disruption escalates.
Processing plants are operating as near to normal as possible at the moment, with extra guidance and restrictions on visits in place, said the SSPO (Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation) in a Covid-19 update this morning.
But this will change as workers either self-isolate or are diagnosed with the virus.
‘Our companies have started talking about sharing processing resources as the situation develops,’ said the SSPO, which represents all Scotland’s salmon producers.
The top priority for farmers remains keeping people and fish healthy; non-essential farm work is being kept to a minimum to reduce the number of people needed on farms and facilities. And non-essential visits to farms have ceased.
In terms of logistics, salmon is reaching the UK retail market at the moment but the situation could change.
‘There is a concern that there will soon be fewer haulage drivers to get the fish around the country, which could also restrict our ability to get fish to internal markets,’ said the SSPO.
As reported yesterday, all companies are experiencing ‘significant reductions’ in exports.
This is partly because of a fall in orders, partly because travel restrictions are making it impossible to get the fish to market, and partly because of steeply rising costs associated with a lack of aircraft/haulage travelling to export destinations. No official figures are available yet.
However, the UK retail market has remained very strong, said the SSPO, thanks in part to stockpiling.
‘Retailers are reporting that consumers are buying significant quantities of fresh produce which can be frozen at home – including salmon.
‘However, this is offset, to some extent, by the steep decline in demand from the food service sector. Again, no statistics are available yet.
‘As our farmers find it more difficult to find overseas markets for their fish, they will try to get more Scottish salmon into the home market.’
The SSPO continues to stay in touch with member companies, other trade and business organisations, the Scottish government and regulators.