The figures from Her Majesty’s Customs and Revenue (HMRC) show the value of sales of salmon overseas increased by 22% in 2019 year on year, although 2018 was a year with lower production volumes and consequently lower export volumes compared to both 2017 and 2019. The tonnage exported in 2019 increased by 26% to more than 94,000 tonnes compared to 2018.
France, USA, and China were the top three markets of a total of 54 countries which imported Scottish salmon last year. For the third year running, France was the largest market for Scottish salmon with sales worth £221m, followed by USA (£179m), and China (£59m).
56% of fish to EU
The EU accounted for 56% of the volume of global Scottish salmon exports and 52% of the value (£323m).
Outside the EU, the US remained Scottish salmon’s largest market, taking 25,000 tonnes in 2019 – a growth in value and volume of 28% year on year.
In total, 17 of the top 20 export markets showed positive growth in 2019.
While there was a decline in exports to China of 11% in volume, this was offset by growth elsewhere in Asia to the likes of Taiwan and Japan, resulting in almost £97m worth of Scottish salmon exported to the region.
Julie Hesketh-Laird, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO), said: “Such record-breaking performance is hugely encouraging and reflects the excellent reputation which Scottish salmon has in international markets.
“Scottish salmon’s good environmental story with its small carbon footprint and low water use plus global recognition of its taste, quality and provenance is clearly understood in almost every corner of the globe.”
Hesketh-Laird pointed out that the industry’s continued export success sustains more than 2,300 jobs in Scotland, mostly in sparsely populated rural areas.
Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said: “The need to explore and take advantage of international markets could not be clearer given the current uncertainty around our future trading relationship with Europe.
“This is an important time for the Scottish farmed salmon sector which contributes significantly to the rural economy, supporting families and livelihoods in some of our most fragile communities.
“I’m confident that the Scottish government and industry will continue to work together to unlock further sustainable growth of this vital sector.”
Colin Blair, managing director of Cooke Aquaculture Scotland, took the opportunity to reiterate the company’s concern that future exports might be affected by Brexit.
“Today’s record-breaking export stats show the sector is performing well, but with most exports bound for the EU the Scottish and UK governments need to work to ensure a barrier-free route to the continent, and unlock new markets in other parts of the world,” said Blair.
The majority of the salmon grown by Cooke at its sites in Orkney and Shetland is sold to custmers in the EU.