New seafood task force to tackle UK export problems
A new task force has been set up by the government of the United Kingdom to help resolve export issues that have disrupted Scotland’s seafood sector following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December, 2020.
The Scottish Seafood Exports Task Force will meet every two weeks with representatives from the U.K. government and the catching, processing, and aquaculture sectors, starting this week.
Scotland Office Minister David Duguid told the BBC the task force’s primary aim is to work collaboratively across U.K. and Scottish governments to increase confidence in the seafood and aquaculture supply chain by ensuring that medium- and longer-term export issues are resolved. Duguid said he has written to Scotland Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing to ask if Scottish government officials will take part in the first meeting.
The introduction of new border checks and paperwork since the end of the Brexit transition period has caused disruption to exports of fresh fish and seafood to the E.U., with producers expressing their frustration at the lack of government action.
One of the first issues for the task force is likely to be to establish finer details of the recently announced GBP 23 million (USD 31.5 million, EUR 25.9 million) compensation scheme.
Responding to the announcement of the task force, Seafood Scotland Chief Executive Donna Fordyce said the Scottish seafood industry had reached the peak of the export crisis, and the promise of action is welcome, albeit weeks later than hoped.
“What the seafood industry is experiencing goes far beyond ‘teething problems’ and needs real solutions, delivered quickly. We have yet to see the make-up of the taskforce, but we would hope that its approach will echo the passion and fierce determination of the men and women whose livelihoods depend on the sea, and have done for generations. The challenge that lies ahead is to fix systems and red tape both here and in the E.U. that have so far failed seafood exporters from all over the U.K., with the devastating impacts becoming clearer as each day goes by,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Scottish government has advised that applications are now available for the new GBP 6.45 million (USD 8.8 million, EUR 7.3 million) funding scheme for fishers and small aquaculture businesses impacted by COVID-19 and the E.U. exit.
The Seafood Producers Resilience Fund is aimed at providing support to eligible shellfish catchers and producers and trout farmers who have faced issues exporting to the E.U. and lost access to domestic food markets as a result of COVID-19.
Launched on 5 February as part of a GBP 7.75 million (USD 10.6 million, EUR 8.7 million) package of support, it is expected to benefit up to 1,000 vessels landing shellfish such as crab, lobster, scallops, langoustines, and squid, and up to 75 aquaculture businesses that produce shellfish and trout.
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