The export volume of Scottish salmon fell by a third in H1 2022 compared to the same period last year. Photo: Scottish Sea Farms.

Scottish salmon export earnings dip as volume falls by 35%

Scottish salmon was the UK’s biggest fresh food export in the first half of 2022, new figures show, but the value of exports fell by 8% compared to the same period last year against a background of a 35% drop in the volume of fish exported and continued challenges following Covid and Brexit.

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International sales of Scottish salmon were valued at £280 million in the first half of 2022, with France accounting for more than half of the total, statistics from Her Majesty’s Customs and Revenue show.

This was down by £22.9m (8%) compared to H1 2021, across both EU sales and non-EU sales.

The volume of fish exported was 32,814 tonnes, a fall of 17,798 tonnes compared to H1 2021.

Click image to enlarge. Source: Salmon Scotland.

Increased UK demand

Trade body Salmon Scotland said in a press release that the drop in exports had been offset by increased demand at home, with the impact of the pandemic resulting in a shift with some salmon destined for international markets instead sent to UK retailers.

Separate data indicate that sales of Scottish and foreign-sourced salmon in UK shops soared to £1.1 billion in 2021, making it the country’s most popular fish.

However this year the Scottish industry has not been able to meet demand. The Norwegian Seafood Council recently reported that the UK was the export market that had seen the biggest increase in demand for salmon, due to lower production volumes in Scotland.

Weather-hit harvests

Salmon Scotland said farmers and producers had faced a number of challenges in recent months, including bad weather at the start of the year affecting harvests, post-Brexit and pandemic-induced labour shortages, cross-Channel delays and a cumbersome regulation system in Scotland that needs urgent reform and streamlining.

The organisation has called on the Scottish and UK governments to take action to support the sector, ensuring it can continue to grow and provide more local jobs in Scotland and more revenue for the UK economy.

Salmon Scotland’s wish list includes:

  • A streamlined regulatory system in Scotland along the lines of the Norwegian model.
  • Measures to address planning hold-ups for new salmon farms.
  • A change to key worker definitions to tackle the post-Brexit labour shortage.
  • A solution to cross-Channel delays and avoidance of any trade war with Europe.

Cluttered regulation

Salmon Scotland chief executive Tavish Scott said: “There is strong international demand for our unrivalled farm-raised Scottish salmon, making it the UK’s biggest and most important food export.

“These export sales deliver a massive economic benefit for rural and coastal communities in Scotland, supporting thousands of highly skilled, well-paid jobs, and helping local areas to thrive, while delivering millions for the UK economy.

“But, like many sectors, we face continued challenges following Covid and Brexit.

“With Scottish Government reform of the cluttered regulatory landscape, and UK Government reform of labour rules and the cross-Channel set-up, we will be able to deliver further sustainable growth to support our most isolated communities.”