Don't let us perish: UK fisheries minister Victoria Prentis and Salmon Scotland chief executive Tavish Scott on board a workboat in Shetland during a visit in which Scott emphasised the importance of prioritising the transport of perishable goods to Europe. Photo: Salmon Scotland.

UK ministers urged to give cross-Channel priority to salmon lorries

Scotland’s salmon sector today urged the UK government to take immediate action to support exports affected by cross-Channel delays.

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Tavish Scott, chief executive of trade body Salmon Scotland, held talks in Shetland with UK fisheries minister Victoria Prentis to highlight the disruption and the importance of salmon exports for island and rural communities.

Fresh salmon from Scotland will normally arrive in France the morning after despatch, but in recent weeks there have been delays of up to 48 hours due to queues on the UK side of the Channel – and there are concerns of repeat problems.

Getting to grips with Brexit realities? UK fisheries minister Victoria Prentis holds a salmon during a visit to Shetland, in which she was informed about the difficulties cross-Channel delays are causing producers. Photo: Salmon Scotland.

Top market

Salmon Scotland said France is the top market for the fish, where it holds prestigious status with chefs and restaurants.

It has asked the UK government to introduce immediate contingency plans for perishable goods to have priority status when delays occur at peak times such as the summer holidays.

But there also needs to be a permanent post-Brexit solution after schools return, with extra capacity in place to avoid delays for all transport, and flexibility built in to adapt for shifts in demand.

No problems for Norway

The trade body pointed out that Scottish salmon competes in the European marketplace with Norway, which is not experiencing the same disruption to exports.

Scott wrote to the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on July 7 to highlight the challenges on the UK side of the Channel crossing, and a face-to-face meeting was held in Shetland today.

Prentis also met with representatives of salmon producers Scottish Sea Farms and Cooke Aquaculture Scotland, firms that together make up around 20% of Shetland’s economy.

Urgent action

Scott said: “This meeting was a welcome opportunity to set out the challenges currently facing salmon exporters and the risk to the Scottish and UK economies unless urgent action is taken.

“As the UK’s biggest food export, it is vital for jobs in Scotland and for the UK economy that we avoid any hold-ups at the Channel.

“Fresh Scottish salmon is perishable and needs to arrive with customers as quickly as possible.

“We have urged the UK government to prioritise the movement of perishable goods. Following today’s constructive meeting, we are hopeful of swift action.”