The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation has called for a joint UK-Scottish taskforce to tackle the problems experienced by seafood exporters since the end of the Brexit transition period.
SSPO Chief Executive Tavish Scott has urged both the UK and Scottish governments to work together to address barriers to trade – including confusing paperwork and delays in gaining clearance – that have meant many shipments of perishable goods have either arrived late or not at all.
The SSPO says the situation has improved over the last week but there are still serious issues which are causing problems, mostly linked to the huge amounts of new paperwork that is needed to export seafood to the EU.
Tavish Scott has proposed that along with Scottish and UK government ministers, senior officials, hauliers and agencies responsible for administering the new regulations, including Food Standards Scotland, should be involved in seeking solutions.
He said: “A huge amount of work has been put in behind the scenes in trying to sort the paperwork problems our sector has been coping with since January 1 but there are still big issues that need to be resolved.
“Our customers in Europe need to know they can rely on our salmon arriving on time and, at the moment, that we cannot always guarantee that. We need to sort these problems out and the best way is not to apportion blame but to get all the experts round the table – from Scotland and the UK – to work out what really needs to be done… these problems are not insurmountable but we need to work together as a matter of urgency to get them sorted.”
Scotland’s Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing welcomed the proposal and said: “There are multiple factors at play here so it is essential we bring in experts and businesses with first-hand experience of what is going on so a systems-wide approach can be taken to resolving the issues.
“Three weeks have already gone by so it is critical this taskforce gets to work as quickly as possible. There are short term issues that need solved and businesses need support immediately if they are to keep trading. The taskforce needs to collaborate on solutions to the barriers blocking trade with the EU and streamlining the extensive processes and bureaucracy in place since the end of the EU Exit Transition Period.”
Meanwhile, the UK government has said that good progress has already been made in easing the problems for seafood exporters. After meetings at the end of last week with senior figures in the industry and logistics firm DFDS, Minister for Scotland David Duguid said: “The UK Government has been striving night and day to help the industry and I am encouraged that solutions now in place are beginning to bear fruit.”
As well as a £23m fund to help smaller exporters, he said the UK government has agreed increased resources for Food Standards Scotland and has provided professional support to help with certification in Scottish hubs, as well as working with the French authorities to iron out some of the problems.
Industry sources suggest that most of the larger producers are now adapting to the new regulations, but the new export regime is continuing to create problems for smaller players who are less well resourced.