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Salmon sector demands simplification of post-Brexit export paperwork

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
23 March 2021, at 12:01am

The key piece of paperwork at the heart of export delays to the EU should be completely redrawn and simplified, according to representatives of the Scottish salmon sector.

A salmon farmer in Orkney
A salmon farmer in Orkney

© SSPO

Tavish Scott, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), said there was an urgent need for the Export Health Certificate (EHC) to be redesigned.

Scottish salmon producers have had to cope with significant delays since the Brexit transition period ended on January 1 and the full effects of Brexit came into effect.

Despite improvements since January, when it was taking many hours – and sometime days – to process orders of seafood for the continent, orders are still being held up because of the bureaucracy of the extra paperwork.

It now takes about two hours for each seafood load to be processed and given an export health certificate for transport to the EU and, in some case, this process is taking four hours or longer.

These delays mean salmon are not arriving in France on time, leading to lost orders, discounted sales and disgruntled customers.

Scott has asked the UK Government to look into this issue as a matter of urgency and he raised the issue personally with Michael Gove MP, the UK Government’s Brexit Cabinet supremo, on a recent call.

“Seafood exports are fundamentally important for both the Scottish and UK economies. Salmon is the UK’s number one food export. So we need Government to reduce the costs and complexity that our sector faces,” said Scott.

He added that he had received a verbal assurance from Gove that the UK Government would look to re-design, re-draw and simplify the export certificate, which can run to dozens of pages for each order.

One of the biggest problems with the certificate is that numerous boxes have to crossed out by certifying officers, scoring out all products which the supplier is not exporting to the EU.

This often leads to confusion and mistakes, causing delays both in the UK and at the EU border posts.

Mr Scott added: “I welcome the commitment that the UK Government has given to initiate a system review of Export Health Certificates. They were never designed for perishable products like salmon and therefore never should have been the document we are forced to use as exporters.

“Progress on this is vitally important for our salmon sector and the seafood industry.”

According to figures collated by the SSPO, Scotland’s salmon producers are spending £200,000 a month on extra paperwork because of Brexit.

This £2.5 million annual bill will come on top of the delays, cancellations and problems which have already cost the sector millions of pounds in lost orders, lower prices and cancelled harvests.