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Brexit has cost Scotland up to £100 million-a-year in ‘lost’ salmon exports, MSPs heard yesterday (Thursday March 28) 

Scottish salmon – which is there biggest industry at present in the private sector in the Western Isles – is the UK’s largest food export, but farming companies have faced increased red tape and costs triggered by the departure from the EU in January 2020.

In 2019, there were more than 53,000 tonnes of Scottish salmon exported to the bloc, with the figure falling to 44,000 tonnes in 2023.

Export values to the EU were only down three per cent 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.

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.

The chief executive of trade body Salmon Scotland, Tavish Scott, addressed MSPs on the constitution, Europe, external affairs and culture committee 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 highlighted 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  • The lack of a new eCertification for export health certificates (EHCs), and issues with the current outdated system, which costs salmon farming companies £3 million-a-year.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.

Salmon Scotland is the trade body for the UK’s biggest food export, which supports 12,500 jobs in Scotland and generates £760 million for the local economy.

Brexit officially took place at 23:00 on January 31, 2020. The UK’s relationship with the EU is governed by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). The TCA entered into force in May 2021 and there is provision in the agreement for a joint review of the implementation of the agreement five years after its entry into force.