James Park, head of insights for the Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation. Photo: SSPO.

Coronavirus reduced Scottish salmon exports by 32% in February

Scottish salmon exports dropped by 32% year-on-year in February as the spread of coronavirus devastated markets in Asia, an analysis of export figures carried out by the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) has shown.

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Figures from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) show a drop of 2,700 tonnes compared to February 2019.

Exports to Asia accounted totalled just over 200 tonnes, down by 1,360 tonnes (87%) compared with February 2019.

From 25% to 4%

As a result, exports to Asia accounted for only around 4% of total volumes and 5% of value whereas they previously accounted for around 25% of each.

The Scottish salmon sector was able to mitigate the problem slightly by finding 3% of additional value in European markets despite volumes being down 10% as coronavirus spread.

A more significant impact on exports will become clearer when the statistics for the first quarter are reported in mid-May. Ahead of that, companies are exploring opportunities for new routes to markets emerging from the coronavirus lockdown, such as China, and how to adapt products and distribution for overseas and domestic markets. 

Sharp fall

The SSPO’s head of insights, James Park, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has, predictably, seen the impact on exports mirroring the geographic spread of the virus. With the experience and expertise in exporting fresh Scottish salmon globally to more than 50 countries, companies have been able to manage January and February fairly well. 

“However, as the pandemic lockdowns hit major European markets and the US, demand has fallen sharply in the important food service and restaurant sectors. Retail demand has correspondingly risen as consumers look for healthy products which are versatile and convenient.

“The importance of the UK domestic market continues to be reinforced. The UK market has always been the bedrock of Scottish salmon sales and in spite of huge exports as Scotland’s and the UK’s largest food export, the home market is central to the sector’s continuing success.

“Companies have swiftly adopted safety measures to protect workers on farms and in processing. Public health and keeping the workforce safe are our absolute priorities, but the sector is also working hard to sustain a supply of fresh salmon moving to the supermarkets across the UK.”