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New taskforce for Scottish seafood industry to meet this week

Freshly caught langoustines.
Freshly caught langoustines.

A task force dedicated to driving forward the seafood sector in Scotland will meet for the first time this week.

The Scottish Seafood Exports Task Force draws together the UK Government and a wide range of key industry representatives from the catching, processing and aquaculture sectors.

Launching it today, Westminster said the Scottish Government had been invited to be represented at both ministerial and official level.

The move comes after new red tape created by Brexit caused major disruption to seafood exports to key markets in mainland Europe, and also huge losses to firms whose perishable products did not reach end customers.

The new task force will be hosted by the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland and chaired by  Scotland Office Minister David Duguid.

‘Action-oriented’

Mr Duguid: said: “We have had extensive consultations with the industry and been working day and night to resolve issues around the new arrangements for getting our world-class seafood to customers in Europe.

“From this ongoing consultation with industry representatives, I believe the gap they would like us to fill would comprise an action-oriented group.

“This will work collaboratively across UK and Scottish governments, increasing confidence in the seafood and aquaculture supply chain by ensuring that medium and longer-term export issues are resolved.”

‘Common understanding’

He added: “I am clear about the need for action. I want the taskforce to track the export process to identify issues stopping or delaying export, and areas of complexity that are not yet well understood.

“We want to seek a common understanding on the export process and address concerns by developing solutions to be taken forward by the UK Government, Scottish Government and EU.

“And we want to ensure there is effective communication with the industry to ensure traders are aware of issues and of solutions.”

MP DAVID DUGUID

Existing working groups which bring together the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the industry to tackle day-to-day issues will continue to operate.

The new task force will meet fortnightly, with a focus on establishing and pushing forward “the actions needed to help secure a prosperous long-term future for the Scottish seafood industry, taking advantage of new opportunities as well as addressing current challenges”.

The UK Government has previously announced a £23 million scheme which will “provide crucial support for fishermen and seafood exporters who have experienced delays and a lack of demand for fish from the restaurant industry in the UK and Europe”.

This is in addition to £100m of fishing industry funding announced by the prime minister in December.

What the seafood industry is experiencing goes far beyond ‘teething problems’ and needs real solutions, delivered quickly.”

Donna Fordyce, chief executive of Seafood Scotland

Mr Duguid has written to Scottish Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing, inviting him and officials to take part in the inaugural meeting this week.

Seafood Scotland chief executive Donna Fordyce said: “The promise of action, while weeks later than all had hoped, is welcome.

“What the seafood industry is experiencing goes far beyond ‘teething problems’ and needs real solutions, delivered quickly.

“We have yet to see the make-up of the task force, but we would hope that its approach will echo the passion and fierce determination of the men and women whose livelihoods depend on the sea, and have done for generations.”

She added: “The challenge that lies ahead is to fix systems and red tape – both here and in the EU – that have so far failed seafood exporters from all over the UK, with the devastating impacts becoming clearer as each day goes by.”

‘We are at a loss to understand why this task force is not a joint effort’

Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation chief executive Tavish Scott said: “We asked for this to be jointly led by Fergus Ewing.

“Unfortunately the UK Government has decided to chair the task force alone and through the Scotland Office rather than Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

“We have been asking for both governments to work together on the red tape, extra export costs we face every day and the uncertainty on delivery times for fish into Europe. We are at a loss to understand why this task force is not a joint effort”.

 

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