Brexit costs Scotland £100m in lost salmon exports

Trade body Salmon Scotland has warned that salmon farming companies have faced increased red tape and costs triggered by the UK’s departure from the EU in January 2020.

In 2019, there were more than 53,000 tonnes of Scottish salmon exported to the bloc, but the figure had fallen to 44,000 tonnes by 2023.

“Export values to the EU were down only 3% to £356 million because strong global demand drove up prices, but if the sector had maintained volumes at 2019 levels, then sales would have been above £430 million,” said Salmon Scotland.

“That means there has been a net ‘loss’ of around £75 million, or up to £100 million had the sector grown at the rate previously expected.

“The Brexit impact has been mitigated by huge growth in other markets, particularly Asia and the US.

“Overall international sales in 2023 were up from £578 million to £581 million (+0.5 per cent), including a 7 per cent increase to the US and 22 per cent to Asia.

“However, with salmon increasingly popular in traditionally smaller European markets such as the Netherlands and Spain, smoother trade flow and new markets would open up the possibility of further economic growth – generating greater investment in the Scottish economy and more high-skilled Scottish jobs.

“The Brexit impact of lost sales does not include the direct £3 million-a-year cost to farming companies because of the lack of an e-certification scheme.”

Farm-raised salmon directly employs 2,500 people in Scotland and a further 10,000 jobs are dependent on the sector.

Salmon Scotland CEO Tavish Scott will address MSPs on the constitution, Europe, external affairs and culture committee on Friday as part of their inquiry into the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) – which is up for review after the General Election.

Calling for the next UK Government to take urgent action, he will highlight the challenges facing salmon farmers post-Brexit, including:

  • Competitive disadvantage – there is still significant paperwork and processes which can lead to delays which may have knock-on impacts if consignments are delayed.
  • The lack of a new eCertification for export health certificates (EHCs), and issues with the current outdated system, which costs salmon farming companies £3 million-a-year.
  • Border Control Posts (BCPs) which come into force in April this year, bringing in a raft of new import requirements for the feed sector.
  • Bulk exports – improved technologies which are openly in use across the UK would benefit EU customers and consumers through reduced costs and environmental emissions via the use of larger bulk packaging.
  • Veterinary agreement – the sector is calling for the UK and EU to create a bespoke and mutually convenient Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) agreement which returns efficiencies to supply chains on both sides of the Short Straits to help consumers and businesses in both territories.

Speaking ahead of his committee appearance, Scott said: “Scottish salmon is the UK’s largest food export and a major contributor to our economy, with demand rising at home and abroad.

“And despite soaring sales to Asia and the US, the EU is still the most significant region for our exports, accounting for more than 60 per cent of international sales.

“The world-renowned quality of nutritious low-carbon Scottish salmon means that we could significantly grow markets such as Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.

“But Brexit red tape continues to hold back the potential of Scottish exports, despite the hard work and investment put in by farmers to address the issues.

“We need the next UK government – whatever formation it is – to ease the burden on exporters so that sectors like ours can sell more Scottish produce, delivering economic growth and creating jobs here at home.”