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December 11th 2023

As Christmas approaches, Salmon Scotland chief executive Tavish Scott hails the latest figures on UK sales and looks forward to further growth in 2024.

As towns and villages turn on the lights, and festive adverts dominate the TV breaks, many families start to think about what dishes they’ll be serving up for their Christmas fare.

It’s a busy time of the year for turkey farmers of course, but also for the Scottish salmon sector.

Smoked salmon has become a festive staple in many households, but you can do so much more with our versatile and nutritious fish.

Last month, for example, BBC Two viewers watched as Mary Berry used Scottish salmon on her show ‘Mary Makes it Easy’ to show Strictly Come Dancing judge Anton Du Beke how to cook up a simple lemon and caper salmon linguine.

Sometimes our sector focuses so much on our amazing exports success (and I’m pleased to report that international sales are up seven per cent in a year) that we risk overlooking just how popular salmon is here at home.

Salmon is by far the most popular fish among UK consumers, with new figures showing sales are up 3.2 per cent in a year.

That year-on-year increase is higher than the 2.5 per cent increase recorded for all fish.

And with sales reaching £1.25 billion in the 12 months to September, the accounts for nearly 30 per cent of all fish bought in the UK.

Even more impressively, in the chilled seafood sector, salmon increased its value share of the top ten chilled species to 48.7 per cent.

Inflation has had an impact, of course, and the sector has faced its challenges, but we should all take pride in another successful year.

As Christmas approaches, I hope that our members enjoy even further success.

And I pay tribute to our farmers who are working hard in freezing temperatures, and our supply chain which enables us to get salmon to the processors, fishmongers and supermarkets so that people can enjoy our fish this festive season.

Farming salmon is a 365-day-a-year job, but it’s always nice for our sector to be recognised at this time of year.

At the end of November, the Scottish Parliament marked St Andrew’s Day with an event which celebrated Scottish food and drink, including Scottish salmon.

It was arranged by the cross-party group (CPG) on St Andrew’s Day, which is convened by MSP Michelle Thomson and was attended by around 200 parliamentarians and other invited guests.

She said: “I am grateful for the support provided by Salmon Scotland for the annual St Andrew’s Day celebration in the Scottish Parliament. The CPG exists to promote Scotland and her national day - and what better opportunity than also using it to showcase some of her food and drink products”.

From Holyrood to Paris… once again, the Scottish Government hosted an event in the British embassy in Paris to showcase Scotland’s world-class food and drink offering, with Scottish salmon from Bakkafrost enjoyed by all.

Last year we marked 30 years of Scottish salmon holding the prestigious ‘Label Rouge’ quality mark in France, which delivers a massive economic boost for Scotland.

Scottish salmon was both the first fish and first non-French product to be awarded the accolade in 1992.

Label Rouge salmon currently accounts for 12 per cent of Scottish salmon exports, but earlier this year a vision was unveiled to increase this to 15 per cent by 2026.

This growth will be supported by the formation of a ‘salmon circle’ of top German chefs who have agreed to act as ambassadors for our product, with members visiting Scotland a few weeks ago to learn more about the provenance of Label Rouge Scottish salmon.

As a new year approaches, this is a reminder of the kind of sustainable growth that our sector can deliver.

Yes, a miniscule minority of noisy activists want to shut down our entire operation and they have some friends in the media who give them a platform, but we’re not going anywhere – far from it.

Over the past year, I’ve been making this abundantly clear to the many decision makers I meet.

In the Scottish Government’s long-term vision for the nation’s aquaculture sector, there was recognition of our “crucial role” in contributing to food security, net zero and high-skilled jobs.

We should all take pride in what we have achieved this year and look to 2024 with optimism.

That’s not to say there aren’t some hurdles ahead.

We will continue to face scrutiny and people will rightly expect to see our continued commitment to full transparency.

Survival rates were lower than we would want in the last few months of 2023, but we are constantly innovating to increase the sector’s knowledge of natural environmental challenges so that we can provide even better care for our fish.

And I was delighted to see that a global league table of sustainable food producers placed many salmon farmers in the top ten.

The Coller FAIRR Protein Producer index assesses 60 of the largest listed meat, dairy and aquaculture companies on ten environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors including greenhouse gas emissions, waste and pollution, and animal welfare.

Seven of the index’s top ten companies are aquaculture producers, clearly highlighting the sustainability credentials of the sector.

So, we are already leading the way – and in 2024 I believe we can make even more progress.

The coming year is an election year, so we also have even more opportunities to engage with those vying for office, who ultimately make the decisions which determine the economic and regulatory environment we operate in.

At every moment, I will be banging the drum for our sector.

With growing demand at home and abroad for Scottish salmon, our sector continues to go from strength to strength.

As 2023 draws to a close I wish all readers of Fish Farmer Magazine a Merry Christmas, and I thank everyone in our sector for their hard work and dedication over the past 12 months.

Here’s to a successful new year.