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‘Bureaucracy, paperwork and delays’: Brexit ‘confusion’ has resulted in £11m losses for Scottish salmon farmers

Tavish Scott, chief executive of the SSPO. 
 
Picture supplied by Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO).
Tavish Scott, chief executive of the SSPO. Picture supplied by Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO).

New figures reveal Scottish salmon farmers have seen losses plunge by £11 million as firms incur costs of hundreds of thousands of pounds a month due to Brexit “confusion”.

The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) said the figures, which they presented to a UK and Scottish government joint task force yesterday, account for an immediate loss of sales to the tune of 1,500 tonnes of product – which saw costs rise to £200,000 in January alone.

The trade body blamed “bureaucracy, paperwork and delays” for the mounting costs to salmon farmers.

It also said salmon farmers have had “no choice” but to delay harvesting around 700 tonnes of fish in order to minimise any of their high-quality product becoming spoiled or destroyed.

The SSPO called for the UK and Scottish governments to “work together” to clear the blockages caused by Brexit red tape.

Andrew Watson, spokesman for Shetland firm Cooke Aquaculture Scotland described the current situation of exporting to Europe as “something of a lottery”.

He said: “While Scottish salmon exports to the European Union are tariff free, the application of non-tariff barriers are extremely costly and time consuming and are affecting the entire sector.

“The situation has improved since the start of the year as the authorities become more experienced with the new trading arrangements but, in spite of all our preparation, exporting to Europe continues to be something of a lottery: some things that worked last week don’t work this week.

“Further effort is required on both sides of the channel to ensure all the processes are in place to enable us to meet demand from our European customers in the timescales they need.”

The SSPO said that since the Brexit transition phase on January 1 salmon exporters have had to deal with the “full effects” of not being in the European single market.

It claims Scottish salmon farmers have experienced “considerable delays”, some of which have resulted in lost orders, failed deliveries, unharvested fish and heavily discounted products at market.

The Scottish salmon farming sector employs more than 2,500 people and supports 10,000 jobs in processing and the supply chain.

Export sales of whole, fresh salmon were down by £168m in 2020 to £451m, from £619m in 2019.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of the SSPO, said: “This cannot be the ‘new normal’. Our members cannot guarantee reliable delivery times to the European Union, which is our biggest overseas market.

“The systems need to be streamlined and a lighter touch adopted on all sides to make sure we can continue to serve our European customers as we have in the past. If not, they will go elsewhere and we will lose both trade and customers.

“We are calling on both the UK and Scottish governments to work together with us and with the supply chain to make sure there are no more blockages in the system which prevent our members from getting their fish to market on time.”

The Scottish Government’s rural economy secretary, Fergus Ewing, described the impact of the Brexit deal on farmed salmon as “stark”, despite it being Scotland’s “most important food export”.

He added: “The issues the industry have raised around bureaucracy and barriers to trading echo what we have been hearing from seafood businesses across the country since January 1.

“We are doing all we can to save the jobs, livelihoods and communities that our valuable seafood and aquaculture sectors support. We urge the UK Government to meet all of the costs to the industry as a result of their Brexit policy, as they promised to do.

“We continue to work with seafood exporters, Food Standards Scotland and the relevant UK Government departments to deal with the problems businesses are currently facing and have urged the new Scottish Seafood Exports Taskforce to simplify paperwork and systems which are the source of much of the frustration encountered by exporters in all parts of the UK.”

The UK Government was approached for comment but did not respond.

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