Salmon farmers tell Tory leadership candidates about labour shortages and trade war fears

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
15 August 2022, at 7:42am

The trade body for Scottish salmon farmers has written to Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak ahead of tomorrow’s Perth hustings to highlight government action needed to support vital growth.

Man on a salmon farm
Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland

Brexit has caused a number of issues in the Scottish salmon farming sector relating to trade disputes and labour shortages © Salmon Scotland

Farm-raised Scottish salmon is the UK’s biggest food export, supporting 12,000 jobs – many in rural and isolated areas of the country.

But despite growing worldwide demand for the high-protein fish, the labour pool has shrunk in recent years, with many key workers returning to eastern Europe post-Brexit.

And there are ongoing concerns that changes to the Northern Ireland protocol could lead to retaliatory action by the EU, causing increased friction at the border, delays and queues for hauliers crossing to France, or extra costs for exporters.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, wrote to Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak that: “Our businesses are vital to the economic performance of the UK - not only in economically fragile coastal and rural areas, but across the length and breadth of the country in processing, engineering, science and technology industries.

“Labour shortages in our processing businesses are acute. We would urge you to embrace a more enlightened approach to the movement of labour into the UK so as to assist business.

“Steps could include a change to key worker definitions, changes to the salary cap level and a broader public signal that the UK is open to people and thus to business.”

His second main point relates to concerns over a potential trade war being initiated with the EU.

As he points out: “Maintaining and enhancing our export position to the EU and wider European markets is of considerable importance to our businesses.

“Any escalation of EU-UK negotiations over the Northern Ireland protocol is high on our industry risk register. Continuous access to our main markets in Europe is vital for the UK’s food and drink export success story."