December 24th 2020

The Brexit deal with the EU will mean increased costs and potential disruption to transport for the UK's number 1 export industry says the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation. In a week of transport chaos with millions of pounds of losses caused by border disruption between the UK and continental Europe which continues, Tavish Scott, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) said:

"We are pleased the negotiators have at last secured a deal. This will alleviate some of the serious problems that would come from a 'no deal' Brexit.

"But we still have concerns. The disruption at the Channel right now is hitting our members ability to export. Brexit means the Scottish salmon sector now face the reality of lots more red tape, bureaucracy and paperwork which are the reality of the extra trade barriers which come with Brexit.

"So until we see how this UK-EU agreement actually works in practice, it is impossible to make a clear judgement on how the new trading arrangement in 2021 will affect salmon farming."

Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), CEO Tavish Scott (left)

As seen in the last few days, transport disruption on either side of the Channel will result in salmon arriving late, or not at all, at the main market in Boulogne-sur-Mer. Commercially this will result in enforced discounts or lost sales to salmon farming companies.

The salmon sector is also concerned about the new Brexit requirement for tens of thousands of Export Health Certificates (EHCs) from 1st January. Salmon farmers have been assured there will be enough staff to process the extra paperwork. But there is still considerable uncertainty as to whether arrangements will work as planned. The cost of the extra EHCs is expected to be at least £1.3 million to the sector every year - a cost that did not exist prior to Brexit.

Mr Scott said:

"We need the new transport hub at Larkhall to process the majority of these export certificates swiftly and smoothly. Many organisations have put considerable efforts into ensuring this happens and we are very grateful for that.

"But salmon farming's big worry remains the potential for disruption at the Channel. Salmon is a perishable product and any delay in getting the fish to our European markets will have serious consequences. If consignments end up being stuck in queues of traffic for hours, the knock-on effects on eventual market price can be severe. That is exactly what we have seen since Sunday. So the omens are not good.

"It is up to the UK Government to now deliver on their numerous promises that Brexit will help the economy. We are all watching."

Mr Scott said that the SSPO would be maintaining daily engagement with the governments in both Edinburgh and London on the sector's behalf.

Background notes on Scottish salmon exports:

  • In 2019, over 53,000 tonnes of whole, fresh/chilled Scottish salmon were exported to the European Union with an export valuation of over £320 million.
  • The EU market helps make Scottish salmon the UK's largest food export (2019 data).
  • The EU accounted for 56 per cent of all Scottish salmon exports (95,000 tonnes) and 52 per cent of the total value in 2019 (over £620 million).
  • In the twelve months to October, the value of global exports has been £482 million - down -£143 million or 23 per cent lower compared with FY 2019.
  • During 2020, exports have become more focussed in Europe - due to geography and access to further processors. In the twelve months to October, the EU accounted for over two-thirds of all volumes and 63 per cent of the global value of exports.

Exports of Scottish salmon in 2019 by value and volume:

Global £625 million, 95,000 tonnes
Of which:
EU £323 million (52% of total), 53,000 tonnes (56%)
Of which:
France £221 million, 36,000 tonnes
Ireland £25 million, 4,800 tonnes
Germany £23 million, 2,800 tonnes
Belgium £15 million, 1,400 tonnes
Denmark £10 million, 2,400 tonnes