High prices increase sales at salmon farm business

Industry-wide value of Scottish farmed salmon rose last year. Picture: TSPL
Industry-wide value of Scottish farmed salmon rose last year. Picture: TSPL
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A SIGNIFICANT increase in prices and higher production volumes drove strong sales and profit growth at fish-farm operator Marine Harvest last year.

The company, which operates 25 fish-farm sites in the west of Scotland, saw turnover rise 45 per cent to £216.5 million, with pre-tax profits more than trebling to £62.3m, despite feed costs increasing by 15 per cent during the year.

The profit figure represented almost 29 per cent of sales revenue, compared with 11.7 per cent in 2012, while the company said harvest volumes had risen by 16 per cent.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) said the industry-wide value of Scottish farmed salmon rose by £100m last year as exports remain strong.

Farm-gate sales of salmon hit £633m in 2013, a figure that has quadrupled in 20 years. The fish farmers’ trade body said salmon is now Scotland’s largest food export, with sales now reaching more than 60 countries.

Staff numbers at Marine Harvest’s Scottish operations rose to 495, up from 453 a year earlier, and the highest-paid director saw their pay package dip to £233,522 from £252,924. A dividend of £20m was paid to its Norwegian parent company, which is the world’s largest supplier of farmed Atlantic salmon, meeting one fifth of global demand.

In March, Marine Harvest sold some of its fish farms on Orkney and Shetland to rival Cooke Aquaculture for £122.5m to meet European Commission conditions for its takeover of fellow Norwegian company Morpol.

The farms were originally owned by Morpol, which had Polish roots, but the sale was demanded to avoid Marine Harvest controlling some 40 per cent of the Scottish salmon industry.

Marine Harvest retains interests in the Northern Isles after spending £65m on acquiring a quarter of the shares in fellow Norwegian-based firm Grieg Seafood in November 2012.

It also operates sea farms around Harris, Lewis, the Uists, Skye, Wester Ross and Lochaber, along with four freshwater sites, five hatcheries and a harvest station at Mallaig.

In August, the Marine Harvest group reported a strong second quarter of the year, with profits and volumes reaching record highs. Total harvest volumes were 114,176 tonnes, compared with 79,438 tonnes in the same quarter last year.