Putting a brave face on Brexit

Scotland’s salmon farmers are trying to remain stoical about the fact that the country is destined to leave the Union, despite 62% of its population voting to remain within Europe. 

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The news, announced this morning, that 51.9% of those of the UK population who voted were in favour of Brexit has astonished bookies, pollsters and financiers alike. And it is unlikely to please many people in the country’s salmon farming sector, given that around 40% of its exports currently go to the EU membership.

Indeed, Anne MacColl the new chair of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) took to twitter to say: “Devastated for our young people - what a disservice to them this is” – a reflection of the fact that a vast majority of those under the age of 50 and 75% of those under 25 voted to remain in the EU.

Looking on the bright side

However, while clearly taken aback, producers and their representatives are determined look at the positives.

As Anne MacColl told Fish Farming Expert: “The brighter note, of course, is that the salmon industry is essentially an export industry with excellent growth prospects and we will remain confident about our future.”

This is the message that Scott Landsburgh, chief executive of the SSPO, will be passing on at the Chairman’s lunch at the Royal Highland Show – which the PO is sponsoring – today.

“Salmon farming will continue business as usual and is confident that, as Scotland’s No. 1 food export, Scottish salmon will continue to consolidate its commercial success in the coming months and in the long term, with the accompanying benefit to our national economy and to the rural communities where the industry operates.  This confidence comes from the fact that we produce a world class, premium product.

“Europe is an important market, representing around 40% of our export tonnage, but we export to more than 60 countries including the USA and Far East,” he said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from The Scottish Salmon Company (which exports roughly half of its production volumes) said: “As the politicians have stated this morning the outcome of the referendum brings huge change for the future of the UK and Europe too. There will be a period of adjustment once a new Prime Minister is elected in the autumn, however certain facts remain, Scottish salmon is Scotland’s and the UK’s number one food export and we do not see that changing.

“We have built up a strong reputation as an industry for our premium quality produce and we see the decision to leave Europe having no effect on the long term demand of our salmon, which is highly sought after across the globe.

“Our growth ambitions remain with a continued focus on driving exports and this weekend we will be in New York showcasing our finest sea loch, fresh Scottish salmon at the Fancy Food Show.”


Nick Joy, former head of Loch Duart – one of Scotland’s most export focused salmon producers –believes that the decision will offer opportunities as well as challenges.

“The effects on trade are yet to come. Once the terror subsides created by a country actually making a decision that is not guided by the major institutions, we will see what the clever money makes of it,” he told Fish Farming Expert.

“So now exporting companies may face a more volatile currency or a more restrictive market and for a while this will be difficult. The UK will face an economic shock because the more cautious money will move away until it is clear what is going to happen. However, I think it would be foolish to say that opportunity vanishes with this decision, it is just that the opportunities will be different and more diverse,” he added.

“For starters nothing will change for the next two years or so and this will allow the UK to build bridges but also for companies to work out arrangements to export successfully.

“Most of all I don’t think this is a mistake, as much as I don’t think that to remain would have been a mistake. The impacts of this will be nothing like as dramatic as the hysterical campaigns would have led us to believe,” Nick, who now runs the aquaculture advisory firm NJoy Consulting, concluded.