Scottish salmon firms call for cut to Brexit red tape

Post-Brexit red tape must be urgently simplified to eliminate damaging delays in exporting Scottish salmon to the EU, according to industry leaders.

The call comes as the latest official figures show exports of salmon to the continent were almost entirely wiped out following the UK’s exit from the bloc – dropping by 98 per cent in January 2021 compared to the previous year.

Cargoes of fish have been subject to severe delays since the full impacts of Brexit came into effect on 1 January this year, mainly due to increased paperwork.

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The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) is now calling for key documentation at the heart of the hold-ups to be completely redrawn and simplified.

Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation chief executive Tavish Scott says key documentation causing damaging border hold-ups after Brexit needs to be completely redrawn and simplified

Exports almost entirely collapsed in January, when it was taking many hours – sometimes days – to process orders of seafood destined for the likes of France and Spain because of additional bureaucracy.

The situation has improved slightly in recent weeks, the SSPO has confirmed, but the process is still taking far too long – up to four hours for each load.

Delays have already led to lost orders, discounted sales and disgruntled customers.

The trade body is calling for Export Health Certificates, which can run to dozens of pages for each order, to be redesigned.

Exports of salmon from the UK to the EU were virtually wiped out in January, falling by 98 per cent compared to the same time in 2020

SSPO chief executive Tavish Scott, a former leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and MSP for Shetland, said: “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.”

According to data collated by the SSPO, Scotland’s salmon farmers incurred losses of at least £11 million in January as a direct result of changes brought about by Brexit..

On top of that, the organisation has calculated that businesses are spending £200,000 a month on extra paperwork, amounting to an annual bill of £2.5 million.

Mr Scott said he had received a verbal assurance from Mr 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.

Mr Scott said he had received a verbal assurance from Michael Gove that Westmintster would consider the issue.

He 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.”

Overseas sales of salmon were worth a total of £618 million in 2019, with France the largest market - alone responsible for sales worth £221 million.

The EU as a whole accounted for 56 per cent of the volume and 52 per cent of the value pf exports.

The problems facing salmon business are part of an estimated £700 million hit from Brexit on the seafood sector.

Other UK fresh food exports to the EU have also been significantly impacted by Brexit, with exports of beef down 91.5 per cent in January, pork down by 86.9 per cent and cheese by 85.1 per cent.

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