Scottish salmon exporters demand priority at Channel

Scotland’s salmon farmers, producers of the UK’s biggest food export, are demanding seafood consignments at Channel crossings are given priority by the UK Government.

The salmon farmers have already lost millions of pounds in sales after being shut out of the European market in the run-up to Christmas.

Every day, more than 152 tonnes of whole, fresh Scottish salmon are en route to the EU — with a daily export valuation of over £1.1 million.

In addition, other salmon products like fillets, sides of salmon and smoked salmon account for £400,000 per day of sales.

The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) said it is imperative that the UK Government delivers on its commitment to prioritise perishable seafood.

Channel crossings to France have been chaotic since December 20.

“The UK Department for Transport has plans to prioritise seafood and day-old chicks, allowing these products to be fast-tracked through the Channel crossing points, by-passing queues of lorries waiting to get into France,” said the SSPO.

“These plans were put together in preparation for the queues and delays ministers expected when the Brexit transition phase comes to end on January 1 2021 (Friday).

“But, with queues of lorries taking days to clear in Kent — largely due to the knock-on effects of the French border closure last week and the need to test every haulage driver for Covid — there is an obvious need for the new prioritisation rules to be introduced earlier.”

Any decision to implement this part of the traffic-management contingency plans would be taken by the Kent Resilience Forum.

The UK Government is a major player on that forum.

SSPO CEO Tavish Scott said: “We have had nine days of challenges with queues of lorries trying to get across the Channel.

“That is before the extra paperwork and bureaucratic checks which will be needed after Friday.

“It is imperative that the UK Government acts now to head off the further problems which are likely to take effect from the end of this week.

“Ministers have to make it clear that they want the prioritisation of seafood and other time-sensitive products to begin as soon as possible.

“The time for that arrangement is now.

“If this is not done, then Scotland’s fish farmers are going to face a second transport crisis.

“They have already lost millions having been shut out of the European market in the run-up to Christmas.

“They cannot afford to go through that again.

“That is why the UK Government has to act now and make it clear that prioritising seafood consignments has to happen without delay.”