The SSPO says a European Commission price-fixing probe is focused on 'another jurisdiction' than Scotland. Photo: Pixabay.

Price-fixing probe not about Scotland, says SSPO

The Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) has moved to distance the domestic industry from allegations of price-fixing, saying that a European Commission investigation on the subject is focused on “another jurisdiction”.

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Unannounced inspections were made by EC officials at the offices of three Norwegian-owned salmon farmers in Scotland yesterday.

The officials visited Grieg Seafood Shetland, Mowi Scotland’s office at its processing plant in Fife and the Scottish Sea Farms office in Stirling. SSF is owned jointly by Norwegian companies SalMar and Lerøy.

A Mowi office in the Netherlands was also inspected.

Focus elsewhere

A spokesperson for the SSPO said: “The SSPO is aware of the inspections carried out by EC officials at premises belonging to salmon companies in relation to allegations of anti-competitive practices.

“However, we understand the focus of the investigation is another jurisdiction, not Scotland.

“The companies concerned are co-operating fully with the investigatory authorities and all further inquiries should be referred to the EC.”

The “other jurisdiction” to which the SSPO refers would appear to be Norway.

‘Norwegian Atlantic salmon’

It is understood that a letter given to the companies inspected in Scotland yesterday specifically refers to “Norwegian producers of farmed Norwegian Atlantic salmon” allegedly participating in anti-competitive agreements to “sustain or possibly increase prices of farmed Norwegian Atlantic salmon”.

This was not made clear in a press statement later issued by the EC, which said only that officials carried out unannounced inspections in several member states at the premises of several companies in the sector of farmed Atlantic salmon.

However, neither of Scotland’s other large-volume salmon producers, Canadian-owned Cooke Aquaculture Scotland and the Edinburgh-based Scottish Salmon Company, was inspected yesterday. 

A Cooke spokesperson said: “Cooke Aquaculture Scotland is not part of this investigation. We understand it to be in relation to Norwegian owned farmers.”

Norway is not in the EU and as an EEA (European Economic Area) country it is not under the same EU jurisdiction as the UK, which might explain why EC officials chose to visit premises of Norwegian companies in countries where they have authority to do so.

Anti-trust rules

The EC statement yesterday confirmed the inspections had taken place, adding: “The Commission has concerns that the inspected companies may have violated EU anti-trust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union). The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities.”

The statement continued: “The fact that the Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself.”

Grieg Seafood said it aims to be open, transparent and forthcoming and will provide all necessary information requested by the EC in its investigation.

A spokesperson for Scottish Sea Farms said: “We can confirm that we, like other Norwegian-owned companies in Scotland, have been visited by EC officials and are cooperating fully.”

SalMar said it is in constructive dialogue with the Commission.