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Tavish Scott:
Tavish Scott: "We are nearly half-way through January and problems are still entrenched in the exporting process." Photo: SSPO.

The Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) today added its voice to a call to temporarily scrap complex export paperwork in order to resolve problems getting seafood out of the UK and into EU markets.

The derogation would allow time for companies to manage the complex paperwork now required for each load heading for the EU.

The caught fish and shellfish sectors appear to have been hardest hit by the problems, but salmon farmers – who send salmon worth more than £1.1 million to the EU every day – have also had difficulty getting produce across the Channel.

Loads rejected because of wrong colour ink

Examples of the extent of the new bureaucracy involved and the problems it has caused was highlighted by Seafood Scotland, and include:

  • Some forms are to be filled in with certain colours of ink, but the instruction as to which isn’t clear. Lorries are being rejected because paperwork has used the wrong colour. 
  • Some commodity codes aren’t on the system and have to be overwritten manually.
  • Documentation requires pages numbered, but the computer system prints them off without numbers, so the information needs to be added by hand. Lorries are being rejected for having no page numbering, or even having ‘Page 11’ as opposed to ‘Page 11 of 14’.

A pragmatic solution

SSPO chief executive Tavish Scott said: “We are nearly half-way through January and problems are still entrenched in the exporting process. 

“A derogation to fix problems, clarify the administrative anomalies and get systems and staff working seamlessly seems to be a pragmatic and much needed solution.

“Salmon farmers are experiencing a variety of issues getting fish to market in good time. We are working hard with governments in the UK and Scotland as well as all the key bodies to resolve the problems effectively and as quickly as possible. Companies are indicating some tentative signs of progress.

Trading relationships

“However, we are very mindful that every day that supplies of Scottish salmon are delayed or compromised the valuable trading relationships Scotland has across European markets are vulnerable to competition. The Scottish premium is highly prized but, once lost, will be hard to recover.”

Salmon farming companies have reported significant delays in getting fish to market, particularly to the key European fish hub at Boulogne-sur-Mer. These have been caused mostly by confusion over paperwork, notably in France, and by IT issues.

There has been evidence of improvements as paperwork has been processed more quickly and more efficiently this week, but issues still exist. The SSPO said these need to be solved urgently if Scottish salmon is to retain its premium place at the top of the EU salmon market.