Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, held talks in Shetland with UK Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis to highlight the disruption and the importance of salmon exports for island and rural communities.
Fresh salmon from Scotland will normally arrive in France the following morning, but in recent weeks there have been delays of up to 48 hours due to queues on the UK side of the Channel – and there are concerns of repeat problems.
Scottish salmon is the UK’s biggest food export, generating more than £600 million for the UK economy through foreign sales alone, and supporting thousands of jobs in Scotland.
France is the top market for the fish, where it holds prestigious status with chefs and restaurants.
Trade body Salmon Scotland has called on the UK Government to introduce immediate contingency plans for perishable goods to have priority status when delays occur at peak times such as the summer holidays.
But there also needs to be a longer-term permanent post-Brexit solution after schools return, with extra capacity in place to avoid delays for all transport, and flexibility built in to adapt for shifts in demand.
Scottish salmon competes in the European marketplace with Norway, which is not experiencing the same disruption to exports. The sector directly employs 2,500 people in Scotland and supports more than 3,600 suppliers, with a further 10,000 jobs dependent on farm-raised salmon.
Scott wrote to the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on July 7 to highlight the challenges on the UK side of the Channel crossing – and a face-to-face meeting was held in Shetland yesterday.
Prentis also met with salmon producers Scottish Sea Farms and Cooke Aquaculture Scotland, which together make up around 20 per cent of Shetland’s economy.
Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “This meeting was a welcome opportunity to set out the challenges currently facing salmon exporters and the risk to the Scottish and UK economies unless urgent action is taken.
“As the UK’s biggest food export, it is vital for jobs in Scotland and for the UK economy that we avoid any hold-ups at the Channel. Fresh Scottish salmon is perishable and needs to arrive with customers as quickly as possible. We have urged the UK Government to prioritise the movement of perishable goods. Following today’s constructive meeting, we are hopeful of swift action.”