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April 2nd 2024

The value of exports of Scottish salmon from the Northern Isles rose to £200 million last year as demand continues to grow for the UK’s most popular fish.

Shetland salmon exports were worth £135million, while exports from Orkney were valued at £65million.

A regional breakdown of the annual figures by trade body Salmon Scotland shows that 14,850 tonnes were exported from Shetland in 2023, representing almost a quarter of the Scotland-wide share, with sales up by more than 16 per cent year-on-year from £116 million.7,110 tonnes of salmon were exported from Orkney, representing around 11 per cent of the Scotland-wide share, with sales up 6.6 per cent year-on-year from £61 million.
The Shetland salmon sector directly supports 470 jobs on the islands, and Orkney 180 jobs, with local farms forming the backbone of communities.

Overall, Scottish salmon overseas sales increased by 0.5 per cent to £581 million in the calendar year – equivalent to £1.6 million every day – confirming the fish’s status as the UK’s largest food export.
Scottish salmon exports were higher than the UK's second largest food export, Cheddar cheese, as well as other popular British products like lamb and beef.
France once again led the global demand, however the US and Asian markets saw sharp growth – with the popularity of premium high-quality salmon increasing among chefs, restaurants, and consumers.
But while the market demand is soaring, the sector is facing several business challenges.
Values rose in 2023 given the high demand, yet export volumes were down 11 per cent compared to the previous year.
The increased red tape following Brexit continues to add costs and delays for salmon farmers, while the sector is keen to see streamlined reform of regulation in Scotland.
Ahead of this year’s general election, trade body Salmon Scotland has urged all political parties to support the country’s most important food sector.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said:
“The demand for nutritious, low carbon Scottish salmon continues to grow at home and abroad.
“It is testament to the hard work of salmon farmers in Orkney and Shetland and across rural Scotland that our fish has been named the UK’s largest food export in 2023.
“I pay tribute to Orkney and Shetland farmers and all those working in often harsh conditions who care for their fish and raise them to the highest standards in the world.
“The Scottish salmon sector is ready to invest and create more jobs in places like Orkney and Shetland, generating even more healthy meals and extra revenue for vital public services.”