Thinking outside the bureaucratic box: SSPO chief executive Tavish Scott wants simpler export paperwork. Photo: SSPO.

Salmon industry demands simpler export forms

Scotland’s salmon farmers have called for post-Brexit export paperwork to be simplified to avoid damaging delays that contributed to £11 million of lost trade in January.

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Tavish Scott, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO), said there was an urgent need for the Export Health Certificate (EHC) to be re-designed.

Scottish salmon producers have had to cope with significant delays since the Brexit transition period ended on January 1, the SSPO said in a press release.

Lost orders

Despite improvements since January when it was taking many hours – and sometimes days – to process orders of seafood for the continent, orders are still being held up because of the bureaucracy of the extra paperwork.

It now takes about two hours for each seafood load to be processed and given an EHC for transport to the EU and, in some cases, this process is taking four hours or longer.

These delays mean salmon is not arriving in France on time, leading to lost orders, discounted sales and disgruntled customers.

Michael Gove has assured the SSPO to Government will look to simplify the EHC.

Reduce complexity

Scott has asked the UK Government to look into this issue as a matter of urgency and raised the issue personally with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who is in charge of Brexit matters, on a recent call.

Scott said: “Seafood exports are fundamentally important for both the Scottish and UK economies. Salmon is the UK’s number one food export. So, we need Government to reduce the costs and complexity that our sector faces.”

Verbal assurance

The SSPO boss said he had received a verbal assurance from Gove that the UK Government would look to re-design, re-draw and simplify the EHC which can run to dozens of pages for each order.

One of the biggest problems with the certificate is that numerous boxes have to crossed out by certifying officers, scoring out all products which the supplier is not exporting to the EU.

This often leads to confusion and mistakes, causing delays both in the UK and at the EU border posts.

Scott added: “I welcome the commitment that the UK Government has given to initiate a system review of Export Health Certificates. They were never designed for perishable products like salmon and therefore never should have been the document we are forced to use as exporters. 

“Progress on this is vitally important for our salmon sector and the seafood industry.”

£200k a month on red tape

According to figures collated by the SSPO, Scotland’s salmon producers are spending £200,000 a month on extra paperwork because of Brexit.

This £2.4m annual bill will come on top of the delays, cancellations and problems which have already cost the sector millions of pounds in lost orders, lower prices and cancelled harvests.

‘A waste of time’

The SSPO will be hoping to get more help from Gove than he is said to have given the Road Haulage Association (RHA) when it was highlighting potential problems ahead of the end of the transition period.

“Michael Gove is the master of extracting information from you and giving nothing back,” RHA chief executive Richard Burnett told The Observer in February.

“He responds on WhatsApp and says he got the letter, but no written response comes. Pretty much every time we have written over the last six months he has not responded in writing. He tends to get officials to start working on things. But the responses are a complete waste of time because they don’t listen to what the issues were that we raised in the first place.”