Direct seafood sales bring increased profits, keep boats at sea during UK lockdown

Published on
February 10, 2021

Grant funding from the Fishmongers’ Company’s Fisheries Charitable Trust and Seafarers UK that enabled fishing and seafood businesses to sell direct to the public throughout Great Britain's first COVID-19-related lockdown in 2020 increased profits, job security, employment opportunities, and business resilience, according to a new analysis.

Research into the impact of the COVID-19 Rapid Response Grant Program (RRGP), performed by Risk & Policy Analysts, identified key lessons for the future of the U.K. seafood industry and for future grant programs designed to support it.

The RRGP enabled fishermen and seafood businesses to diversify in response to the first national lockdown in 2020, providing funds for processing equipment, the establishment of cooperatives, and the delivery of seafood door-to-door. The independent survey of the 121 recipients reveals how the fund enabled seafood businesses to survive, and at times thrive, under the pressures of lockdown and COVID-19.

Increased resilience to external threats such as COVID and Brexit proved one of the key outcomes, with 82 percent of recipients planning to continue their diversified business models and direct sales beyond the pandemic.

According to the analysis, those who received grants said that there was a clear current demand for U.K. seafood, with customers willing to pay a premium for locally-caught produce. The analysis said the industry's 2020 experience showed promotional initiatives focused on maintaining demand for local seafood post-pandemic can play a key role in future industry vitality.

Furthermore, it states that operating a seafood business during the lockdown revealed the precariousness of the  industry's existing distribution networks, suggesting that support for and improvements to the industry’s inland transportation infrastructure will build long-term resilience.

For small businesses who were able to utilize the funding provided under the GBP 500,000 (USD 688,600, EUR 568,658) RRGP, the analysis also showed the need for technical and marketing support to manage both the grant application process, and more importantly, the challenges of rapidly shifting to socially-distanced business models.

One of the fund’s recipients was Cornish supplier Island Fish, which purchased new processing equipment. Island Fish Director Amanda Pender explained that selling direct to the public not only brought increased sales, but also improved links with the local community. Pender reported ongoing increased  demand for her firm's locally-caught and prepared seafood.

“Without doubt, the grant helped increase sales of fresh fish – therefore having an effect on profitability as well as introducing a new type of affordable and delicious locally caught fish into the marketplace for people to enjoy,” she said.

Business activities enabled by the grants also supported and created new jobs in the sector, with 65 percent of recipients saying their grant supported the employment of at least one individual and 57 percent saying the grant allowed their business to keep staff employed. Twenty-eight percent of recipients also confirmed that grant funding kept them running during the lockdown.

Photo courtesy of Risk & Policy Analysts

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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