A side of Label Rouge Scottish salmon.

Value of Scottish salmon exports rose by 9% in first half of 2023

France and US still dominate but there was big growth in revenue from China, Poland, Taiwan, and Netherlands


The value of Scottish salmon export increased by 9% in the first half of 2023, with major growth in the Asian and North American markets.

New figures from His Majesty’s Customs and Revenue (HMRC) show that salmon exports were worth £306 million between January and June.

The largest increases by value were to the United States, China, Poland, and Taiwan, while there was also strong percentage growth in the Netherlands, Singapore, Japanese and Spanish markets.

France remains by far the largest market for Scottish salmon. Although the value of sales to the country dipped 5% in the first half of the year, this was more than offset by wider global demand.

Poland and Netherlands

Within the European Union, the new figures for countries like Poland and the Netherlands – now Scottish salmon’s fourth and sixth biggest global markets – reflect a growth in other EU hub and redistribution markets.

Overall, the value of non-EU exports rose significantly by 19% in the first half of 2023 to £132m, with EU export sales up by 3% to £173m.

Trade body Salmon Scotland’s analysis of the HMRC figures, comparing values in the first half of 2023 with the first half of 2022, show:

  • US up 10% to £77m
  • China up 57 % to £12m
  • Poland up 48% to £17m
  • Taiwan up 174% to £9m
  • Netherlands up 114% to £9m 

In the 2022 calendar year, fresh, whole Scottish salmon export sales of £578 million were recorded, while the record figure was £617 million in 2019, and the new figures indicate that Scottish salmon is heading for another very successful year.

Although the volume of fish transported overseas fell marginally, this reflected tight global supplies that pushed prices up.

Label Rouge

Premium ‘Label Rouge’ salmon – which carries the French quality mark for being the best in the world – currently accounts for around 12% of exports, and there is a vision to grow this to 15% by 2026, tapping into the markets in Germany, Spain and Italy where the quality mark is increasingly recognised.

Separately, the UK domestic market for salmon from Scotland and elsewhere is valued at around £1.2 billion a year, and the Scottish salmon sector’s Gross Value Added (GVA) is worth £766 million for the Scottish and UK economy.

Salmon farming directly employs 2,500 people in Scotland and a further 10,000 jobs are dependent on the sector.

Worldwide recognition

Salmon Scotland chief executive Tavish Scott said the first half of the year has been another period of incredible success for Scottish salmon, reflecting the hard work and dedication of farmers and growing international demand.

“The quality of Scottish salmon is recognised worldwide which is why it is the UK’s top food export,” said Scott.

“As well as providing hundreds of millions of pounds for the UK economy and creating thousands of jobs, Scottish salmon also ensures that remote coastal communities can thrive.

“Both the UK and Scottish governments rightly recognise the potential for continued sustainable growth, so that Scotland can lead the world in the blue economy and grow one of the most nutritious foods we can eat.

“While we face the same challenges as many sectors – including too much red tape, labour shortages, housing supply issues and the impact of climate change – the extraordinary success of our sector is something to be incredibly proud of.”

Encouraging figures

UK Government Minister for Scotland and Exports, Lord Malcolm Offord, said: “These are incredibly encouraging figures for Scottish salmon exports and point towards another strong year for the sector.

“From the US to China exports are rising for our high-quality produce, showing the demand that exists for it across the globe.

“It cements salmon’s position as one of the UK’s top exports, and the UK Government will do all we can to help the sector continue this growth in the months and years to come.”

One thing that Salmon Scotland would like the UK Government to do is to immediately introduce electronic Export Health Certificates (eEHCs) which have been successfully trialled by Cooke Aquaculture Scotland and would eliminate much of the post-Brexit paperwork that costs the sector £2 million a year to administer.

A trial in which eEHCs were used in parallel with paper documentation for the same export consignment demonstrated that they were simpler and more efficient. However, the UK Government’s Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) has ended the trial and is instead developing eEHCs that would apply to both the EC and other export destinations. A trial of the new system isn’t scheduled to begin until early 2024.