One of Scotland’s leading salmon producers has reported record earnings for the first quarter of 2017 despite industry-wide “biological challenges”.
The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) said yesterday it expected to benefit from continued strong global demand throughout this year and into 2018.
It also revealed it aims to be harvesting an extra 2,000tonnes of fish from a site in Portree by late 2019.
SSC, which employs about 500 people across operations in the Hebrides and its head office in Edinburgh, announced a huge jump in first quarter earnings before interest and taxes (ebit) to £9.5million, from £2million a year ago.
On a measure of ebit per pound fish weight, earnings reached a new high for the company as operating revenue surged by £6million to £35.1million, driven by factors including “further development of the export market” and “consistently higher” market prices.
Exports accounted for 47% of the total first quarter sales value, up from 43% in Q1 2016.
SSC said it continued to target overseas markets, with sales of its Label Rouge salmon and Native Hebridean salmon a key driver of export growth.
The company recently secured the necessary consent for increasing harvesting capacity at a site at Portree.
Annual output from the fish farm is expected to rise to about 4,000 tonnes, from 2,000currently. Smolt releases will start in September 2018.
Chief executive Craig Anderson said: “We remain firmly focused on our long-term growth strategy and new site development is an integral part.
“The development of the site at Portree demonstrates this and complements our existing Hebridean operations.”
A total of 5,685tonnes of fish were harvested by SSC during the first three months of 2017, down from 6,741 a year earlier as the firm battled disease.
Sea-lice, a major scourge of salmon farms globally, is costing Scottish farmers millions of pounds in lost output and expensive treatments.
Some of SSC’s sites have also suffered outbreaks of pancreas disease, leading to increased mortalities and smaller fish.
Mr Anderson said: “We have made positive steps to address the biological challenges introducing new initiatives including the commissioning of a hydrolicer (a new weapon in the war against lice) and an additional well boat to increase operational efficiencies and increase flexibility.
“The global salmon market remains strong and prices are forecast to remain firm.
“Demand at home and overseas for Scottish salmon as a premium food product continues.
“Our aim remains to capitalise on this with our continued drive on exports, together with a focus on developing long term customer partnerships.”