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Brexit red tape costs Scottish salmon producers millions, says trade body

Scotland has lost up to £100mn a year in salmon exports to the EU because of red tape and increased costs associated with Brexit, according to data from trade body Salmon Scotland.

The volume of Scottish salmon exports to the EU last year dropped 17 per cent to 44,000 tonnes from 53,000 tonnes in 2019. The export value fell 3 per cent to £356mn because strong global demand raised prices.

But Salmon Scotland said sales of the fish, the UK’s biggest food export, would have reached £430mn last year if volumes had been sustained at 2019 levels. That equates to about £75mn-£100mn less than would have been expected on growth rates recorded before leaving the EU, the trade body said.

“Brexit red tape continues to hold back the potential of Scottish exports, despite the hard work and investment put in by farmers to address the issues,” said Salmon Scotland chief executive Tavish Scott. “We need the next UK government — whatever formation it is — to ease the burden on exporters.”

His comments came ahead of a Scottish parliamentary inquiry on Thursday into the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, when MSPs are scheduled to take evidence from agricultural trade bodies.

“We fully recognise the importance of Scottish salmon to the UK economy and are committed to supporting the sector,” the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.

Scott said the salmon sector was seeking a veterinary agreement between the UK and EU to align sanitary and phytosanitary regulations and strengthen supply chains on both sides of the Channel.

The UK is not seeking a veterinary agreement with the EU, Defra said, adding it was open to steps to reduce trade friction but not through future alignment with EU rules that “would compromise UK sovereignty”.

Other issues cited by Salmon Scotland include paperwork causing delays to consignments, border controls that will next month bring new import requirements for the feed sector, and an outdated system for health export certificates that is costing salmon farmers £3mn a year.

Defra said it was building a digital service for such certificates to reduce costs.

The economic benefit to Scotland’s maritime economy from salmon production is second only to oil and gas. International sales of the fish last year rose 0.5 per cent to £581mn, with sales to Asia jumping 22 per cent and to the US by 7 per cent.

While France remains Scotland’s largest overseas market for salmon, Salmon Scotland said that reducing trade friction with the EU could boost access to other member states, such as the Netherlands and Spain, where the fish has become increasingly popular.

The Scottish National party-led government in Scotland, where 62 per cent of voters rejected Brexit, has made rejoining the EU the centrepiece of its plan for post-independence economic sustainability.

Many Scottish coastal communities voted to leave the EU on the prospect of larger fishing quotas, but opinion is now divided within the sector about the benefits of leaving the bloc.

Via

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