Salmon tops UK exports on £581m; Brexit hits volumes

Sales of Scottish salmon — the UK’s biggest food export — increased by 0.5% to £581 million in the 2023 calendar year, according to annual HMRC figures.

But while the value of Scottish salmon exports rose, export volumes were down 11% due partly to Brexit.

The increased red tape following Brexit continues to add costs and delays for Scottish salmon farmers.

Trade body Salmon Scotland said France once again led the global demand for Scottish salmon — but the US and Asian markets saw sharp growth as well.

“Scottish salmon exports were far higher than the UK’s second largest food export, Cheddar cheese, as well as other popular British products like lamb and beef,” said Salmon Scotland.

“Salmon is also by far the most popular fish among UK shoppers, with sales running at around £1.25 billion a year.

“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 Scottish salmon farmers, while the UK’s recession has dampened the economic environment.

“And the slow pace of reform of cumbersome regulation in Scotland further adds to the challenges facing farming companies.”

Ahead of this year’s UK election, Salmon Scotland has urged all political parties to do more to support the country’s most important food sector, setting out a series of manifesto asks.

The organisation has also warned that other nations are looking to increase salmon sales at a faster rate, highlighting how vital it is that Scotland is seen as “open for business”.

Salmon Scotland CEO Tavish Scott said: “The demand for nutritious, low carbon Scottish salmon continues to grow at home and abroad.

“It’s testament to the hard work of salmon farmers in rural Scotland that our fish has been named the UK’s biggest export in 2023 in such challenging economic circumstances.

“The Scottish salmon sector is a bright spot in the Scottish and UK economies, and is ready to invest and create jobs.

“This is all the more important given the UK is now officially in recession and there is no growth in Scotland, so we need more government support to ensure that Scotland is open for business.

“Other nations are desperate to emulate our success, and it is vital that our sector – which employs 12,500 people and sustains our remotest communities – is supported so that we can deliver sustainable growth for decades to come.”