JAMIE McGrigor, Highlands & Islands MSP and the Scottish Conservative Fisheries Spokesman, yesterday pressed the Scottish Government on the support it is giving to the Scottish fishing and food sectors affected by the Russian Government’s recent decision to implement an import ban on EU food exports.
McGrigor secured a topical question on the subject in the Scottish Parliament, referring to the serious concerns among Scottish pelagic fishermen and processors about the disproportionate impact on their industry of the Russian ban.
Given that up to 20 per cent of mackerel processed in Scotland is exported directly to Russia, he called on ministers to provide extra support for marketing and to back pelagic fishermen who want to be allowed to bank up to 30 per cent of this year’s mackerel quota.
McGrigor also referred to the concerns of Scottish producers of fruit and vegetables who face lower prices as a result of European farm supplies now exceeding demand without the Russian export markets, potentially leading to a flood of some food markets.
In response, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead, confirmed he supported the mackerel quota banking idea and he was in discussions with the UK government and EU on this.
He said there was no justification for Russia’s tit for tat food export ban and that he had today held talks with a range of food sector representatives to discuss a range of measures that might be taken to assist the industry.
Speaking afterwards McGrigor said: ‘I want to see the Scottish Government do as much as possible to support our pelagic fishermen and processors find new markets for their products, both through increasing domestic demand by consumers and by seeking out new and emerging markets abroad.
‘I also want the Scottish Government to redouble its efforts in terms of making urgent representations to the EU to see if it will allow quota flexibility so that up to 30 per cent of this year’s mackerel quota can be banked until the year after.
‘This will take real political will and Scottish pelagic fishermen want an early decision on quota flexibility before the start of the mackerel season in October.
‘Regarding farm exports including fruit and vegetables I am very aware of the concerns of producers that the closure of key Russian export markets for countries like Poland and Germany will result in a glut of produce and a consequent knock-on effect on prices for our own producers.
‘The EU’s recent announcement on emergency funding should help some producers but Ministers will need to monitor this extremely carefully and be ready to take further appropriate action.’