Scottish processors receive emergency support to counter COVID-19 downturn

Published on
April 6, 2020

Seafood processors across Scotland will have access to GBP 10 million (USD 12.3 million, EUR 11.4 million) of financial aid to help them ride out the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the nation’s government has announced.

Recognizing that many seafood businesses are fighting for survival, which is threatening the livelihoods of many residents of the country's coastal communities, the Scottish government has introduced a new Scottish Seafood Business Resilience Fund. The fund will provide a combination of grants and loans to businesses suffering severe hardship following the shutdown of international markets and the foodservice industry across the United Kingdom. 

Scotland Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said the Scottish government is “working flat-out” to support businesses which are adversely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. He also acknowledged that parts of the seafood sector have been hit hard by the collapse of the export and hospitality markets, and are now struggling to survive.

“Our seafood processors are the lifeblood of many rural and coastal communities, supporting thousands of local jobs and producing some of the finest seafood in the world. The industry has been very clear that cashflow is the critical issue facing businesses and this new fund seeks to inject capital into businesses to help them meet their ongoing costs, keep the business solvent, and keep people on the payroll,” Ewing said. “Our approach is rightly focused on those businesses who may need our support the most and we would encourage others that can step in to help to do so. I am also exploring how supermarkets and other retailers might help ensure more of Scotland’s seafood reaches Scottish consumers to help create alternative markets.”

Ewing added that the industry and government are in frequent contact, and gave kudos to industry representatives in the country. 

“I continue to have regular discussions with the industry during this time and I pay tribute to the leadership shown by the Scottish Seafood Association and Seafood Scotland,” he said. “We will now move to get these funds out of the door as quickly as possible to assist a sector which has been a real success story for the Scottish economy,”

Last month, the Scottish government allocated more than GBP 5 million (USD 6.1 million, EUR 5.7 million) in funding to the nations 650-plus fishing companies, with many having lost their livelihoods amid the coronavirus crisis. Through that support, an initial payment of 50 percent of two months’ average earnings was to be made to owners of all full-time Scottish-registered fishing vessels of 12 meters in length and under.

Trade body Seafood Scotland’s interim chief, Donna Fordyce, welcomed the additional support package for the onshore processing industry, saying that it was “critical” to the survival of the wider seafood industry.

“We have spent the last two weeks speaking to seafood businesses all over Scotland, and these measures are just what they have been asking for,” she said. “The sector is one of the most fragile areas of Scotland’s economy, yet delivers so much in terms of employment and export effort. With most export routes almost entirely closed off and around 80 percent of shellfish and seafood normally destined for international markets, the industry is currently on its knees but this package will help many seafood businesses live beyond the impact of COVID-19.”

To access the support – a mix of grants up to EUR 120,000 (USD 130,000) and loans – businesses will be required to apply and meet certain criteria.

Scotland had around 2,000 active fishing vessels, catching more than 540,000 metric tons of fish and shellfish a year and generating first-sales of more than GBP 500 million (USD 614.3 million, EUR 569.2 million). The nation’s seafood exports achieve sales of around GBP 1 billion (USD 1.2 billion, EUR 1.1 billion) annually.  

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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