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Salmon market ‘changed forever’ by Covid lockdown

Andy Bing told BBC Scotland that Loch Duart could continue
Andy Bing told BBC Scotland that Loch Duart could continue "indefinitely".

The way salmon reaches the market has been changed forever by the Covid-19 epidemic, an experienced industry executive said today.

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Andy Bing, sales director of Loch Duart, was speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme.

“I think the change we’re going to see in our industry is that there is going to be less of the whole gutted fish sold, and far more of the fillets and the packs,” said Bing.

“The industry is going to come through this really well but what will change, what will never go back, is the way that the fish reaches the market. I think that the distribution chain is going to change forever.”

Andy Bing expects the market will demand fewer HOG fish and more fillets and packs in future.
Andy Bing expects the market will demand fewer HOG fish and more fillets and packs in future.

Online distribution

Asked how Loch Duart had coped with the shutdown of its core food service market, Bing said the Scourie company was focusing more on independent retailers around the UK and online distribution.

“The concept of restaurant-quality food at home is catching on for everyone,” said Bing, a co-founder of Loch Duart, which produces around 6,000 tonnes of Atlantic salmon annually in Sutherland and the Hebrides.

“It is going really well. We’ve obviously had to change and adapt very quickly. These are scary times but they’re exhilarating and exciting, there are exciting new opportunities opening up for us.”

Selling well in Europe

Bing said the company was still able to export fish by lorry – “throughout Europe our salmon’s selling well” – but added: “It is the far-flung export markets that are not so good.”

Asked how long the company could continue operating in the current climate, he said: “We can go on indefinitely. There’s been great support from the Scottish Government because we are an essential task, producing food for the nation, and the staff have got the social distancing worked out, and we’re finding new routes to market.”

When asked if the change in the way Loch Duart does business is something it might keep doing after restrictions have ended, he replied: “Definitely. If you’re a smaller niche supplier like ourselves, it allows us to speak directly to the consumer and get our message across, and so there’s a lot of opportunities in this.”

Loch Duart farm technicians before the Covid-19 epidemic. Staff response to the crisis has been
Loch Duart farm technicians before the Covid-19 epidemic. Staff response to the crisis has been "utterly fantastic", said Bing. Photo: Loch Duart.

Fantastic staff response

Nonetheless, Bing is looking forward to any future easing of lockdown restrictions in workplaces.

“That would be welcome,” said the sales director. “We feel really sorry for the food service businesses which are normally our customers and have made us what we are. They’ve had a much tougher time and we’re there for them when we get through this.”

Bing also praised the way Loch Duart’s workers had adapted to the Covid-19 restrictions.

It has been an utterly fantastic response from the staff. They have two key duties: one of them is to care for the fish, the other is to care for each other. They’ve got to do the social distancing, in boats and on walkways, in some of the most remote parts of Scotland, and it’s been an amazing effort.”

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