Scottish salmon exports return to pre-Brexit, pre-COVID levels

Exports of farm-raised Scottish salmon, the United Kingdom’s most valuable food export, recovered to near-record figures in 2021.

Exports of farm-raised Scottish salmon, the United Kingdom’s most valuable food export, recovered to near-record figures in 2021.

According to official HMRC figures, overseas sales of salmon in 2021 increased by 36 percent year-over-year to GBP 614 million (USD 832.7 million, EUR 732.4 million), just GBP 4 million (USD 5.4 million, EUR 4.8 million) short of 2019’s all-time high.

Scottish salmon was shipped to 52 different markets in 2021, with growth across 10 of the top 20 markets.
Exports to France increased the most, rising GBP 119 million (USD 161.4 million, EUR 142.3 million) to GBP 304 million (USD 412.4 million, EUR 363.3 million). The U.S. market bought GBP 47 million (USD 63.8 million, EUR 56.2 million) more salmon, reaching a total of GBP 152 million (USD 206.2 million, EUR 181.7 million). China recorded the third-largest increase, up GBP 31 million (USD 42 million, EUR 37 million) to GBP 45 million (USD 61 million, EUR 53.8 million).

E.U. markets accounted for 61 percent of the volume of global Scottish salmon exports.

“Exports returning to levels close to pre-pandemic in spite of the disastrous impact of Brexit don’t happen on their own. This is testament to our resilient and hard-working aquaculture sector. The Scottish government and Food Standards Scotland have also collaborated and supported the industry with new certification requirements to the E.U., including setting up and staffing export hubs,” Scotland Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said. “We will continue to support businesses in the aquaculture sector as well as safeguard our marine environment as part of our green recovery and transition to net zero for future generations to enjoy and make a living from.”

Salmon Scotland Chief Executive Tavish Scott said the “incredibly encouraging figures” demonstrate the global demand for farm-raised Scottish salmon and the resilience of our industry.

“For exports to recover to near record-levels after such a difficult economic period during the pandemic is testament to the hard work and dedication of farmers to sustainable growth in the face of increased costs,” he said.

But while Scottish salmon can be regarded as “a global success story,” Scott said increased competition in the industry means Scotland’s salmon sector must continue to work hard and innovate.

“Our Scandinavian counterparts are growing faster and selling more salmon, so it is imperative that government enables a regulatory framework that is both transparent and efficient to ensure that Scottish salmon retains its place as the key flag-bearer for quality exports from Scotland,” he said.

The salmon industry directly employs 2,500 people in Scotland and supports more than 3,600 suppliers, with 10,000 jobs dependent on the sector, according to the HMRC.

Photo courtesy of Nature's Charm/Shutterstock


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