SSPO chief executive Tavish Scott: "Our customers in Europe need to know they can rely on our salmon arriving on time." Photo: SSPO.

Salmon industry calls for UK-Scottish taskforce to solve export problems

Scottish salmon producers today called for the creation of a cross-border government taskforce to iron out the export problems experienced by seafood businesses this year.

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Tavish Scott, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO), has taken the idea of an expert working group to cabinet ministers in both administrations, the SSPPO said in a press release.

Since the introduction of new checks, rules and bureaucratic regulations at the start of year – brought about by the end of the Brexit transition period – seafood exporters have had to endure delays, cancelled orders and lost customers.

Serious issues remain

The situation has improved over the last week but there are still serious issues which are causing problems, mostly linked to the huge amounts of new paperwork that is needed to export seafood to the EU.

Scott said there was a clear need to get experts from Scotland and the UK together to work through the outstanding issues to deliver an efficient and speedy seafood export system to the EU.

The SSPO proposes that along with Scottish and UK government ministers, senior officials, hauliers and agencies responsible for administering the new regulations, including Food Standards Scotland, should be involved.

Solutions, not blame

Scott said: “A huge amount of work has been put in behind the scenes in trying to sort the paperwork problems our sector has been coping with since January 1 but there are still big issues that need to be resolved.

“Our customers in Europe need to know they can rely on our salmon arriving on time and, at the moment, that we cannot always guarantee that. We need to sort these problems out and the best way is not to apportion blame but to get all the experts round the table – from Scotland and the UK – to work out what really needs to be done.

“That is why we have called for a joint, cross-border task force to be established. These problems are not insurmountable, but we need to work together as a matter of urgency to get them sorted.”

Historic relationship

It follows an appeal by the French Fish Merchants Union in Boulogne (Mareyage Boulonnais) for authorities to show “leniency” towards British seafood exporters. A statement issued by Mareyage Boulonnais said: “It seems such a shame to damage a lengthy historic relationship for the sake of red tape and we need as much help as possible during an already difficult time as it is.

 “The industry can adapt fairly quickly. It needs a little time.”

Issues which have caused problems for salmon exports include the time it takes to process export health certificates for consignments of fish to the EU, the extra paperwork needed to process those certificates, IT problems in the UK, IT problems in France and confusion over which documents are needed (in hard copy and in an electronic form).

The financial losses by the Scottish salmon sector in first week of January from cancelled orders, discounted fish and extra staffing costs of new paperwork are estimated at £3 million.