Holyrood overturns Russian fish trade ban
SCOTLAND'S fishing industry was celebrating yesterday after the Russian government lifted its ban on imports of herring and mackerel in a £40 million boost for the sector.
Last April Vladimir Putin's government imposed widespread restrictions on the export of pelagic fish from Britain, citing concerns about veterinary standards in processing plants.
The ban was imposed against the background of growing tensions between the British and Russian governments over the murder of former agent Alexander Litvinenko.
Now the ban is to be lifted following months of negotiations between Scottish Government and Russian officials. The talks began after Alex Salmond, the First Minister, approached Russian officials at a meeting in Brussels last year.
Mr Salmond welcomed the breakthrough.
He said: "This situation had been having a serious effect on Scottish companies since last April, and I am pleased that this breakthrough can now be announced.
"We have traditionally enjoyed an excellent trading relationship with Russia and I am confident this was simply a temporary blip.
"As soon as we were informed that exports of fish and fish products from the UK to Russia had been suspended, we immediately got to work to overturn it and see off the serious implications of a permanent ban."
The Russian market is vital for the Scottish seafood industry. In 2007 the UK exported more than 48,000 tonnes of pelagic fish, worth over 42 million, to Russia. The vast majority of the exports came from Scotland.
Before the restrictions came into effect more than ten Scottish processing companies were involved in the lucrative trade. One of the companies which will benefit from the resumption of exports is Denholms Seafoods, a major pelagic processing company based at Peterhead.
Robert Duthie, the firm's managing director, said: "Russia is an important market for the Scottish industry and we are absolutely delighted that the restrictions have been lifted.
"We greatly appreciate the efforts of the First Minister in achieving this breakthrough."
Ian Gatt, the president of the Scottish Fishermen's Association, also welcomed the ending of the ban. He said: "Russia is by far the biggest market for mackerel and if this issue wasn't sorted out it would have had a huge impact for fishermen."
Richard Lochhead, the fisheries secretary, said: "For many Scottish fish processors Russia is their biggest export market – worth around 40 million a year. Scotland's seafood is the best in the world, and our fishing industry is recognised for its sustainability and high quality produce world-wide."
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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