Scottish salmon producers export record volumes to EU, but value falls

Published on
August 13, 2021
A salmon farm in Scotland, which has exported record volumes to the European Union in 2021, despite complications arising from Brexit.

Scotland’s salmon farmers exported a record volume of fresh fish to the European Union in the first half of 2021, overcoming a difficult start to the year that featured post-Brexit and COVID-19 trade disruptions.

Official statistics published by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) confirmed some 33,638 metric tons (MT) of whole, fresh salmon were exported to the E.U. in the opening six months of this year. The value of these exports amounted to GBP 183.4 million (USD 253.3 million, EUR 215.5 million).

The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), the trade body that represents Scotland’s salmon farmers, which announced in May that a record-breaking amount of salmon was exported to the E.U. in the first quarter of 2021, said that the sector is now confident that salmon export volumes have returned to pre-pandemic levels. But while the volume of salmon being sold was encouraging, the value of those exports has dipped alarmingly since the start of the year, it said.

According to the SSPO, poor market conditions mean that while total export volumes are up by 63 percent compared with last year, the value did not increase at a corresponding rate – only increasing by 42 percent. Additionally, salmon farmers continue to face increased costs since the United Kingdom left the E.U.

SSPO Chief Executive Tavish Scott said while the additional burdens caused by Brexit have cost Scotland’s salmon farmers at least GBP 11 million (USD 15.2 million, EUR 12.9 million) due to additional bureaucracy, paperwork, delays, and confusion arising from Brexit, he is confident that 2021 will deliver impressive results for the sector.

“We are delighted to see such strong demand for our salmon internationally, which demonstrates the importance of our sector as an economic driver of Scotland’s rural economy. The jobs and communities we have been able to support during such a difficult year is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the employees throughout the entire sector. Scottish salmon is truly an economic success story that we can all be proud of,” Scott said. “Despite much reason for celebration, we cannot deny that we are disappointed that the value of our award-winning salmon remains suppressed due to intense marketplace competition and fallout from Brexit’s impact on our supply chains.”

Scott said extra bureaucratic burdens placed on salmon producers by Brexit were undermining margins still further and costing the sector GBP 120,000 (USD 165,705, EUR 140,969) per month.

Scottish salmon exports to the rest of the world for the first half of 2021 totaled 16,977 MT with a value of GBP 119.6 million (USD 165.2 million, EUR 140.5 million). While this volume was 54 percent higher than in 2020, compared to pre-pandemic 2019, it was 25 percent lower. Similarly, while the H1 2021 value was 41 percent more than in the same period of last year, it was 27 percent less than in H1 2019.

At the end of 2020, with a deadline for a so-called “hard Brexit” from the E.U. looming, Scottish salmon exporters were coping with a closed French border and significant delays for its exports to the E.U. But a deal struck between U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen came as a relief to Scotland’s salmon producers. The deal resulted in zero tariffs on goods traded between the E.U. and the U.K., but added new export health certificates and other labeling requirements.

While other sectors of the U.K. seafood industry have struggled with difficulties caused by Brexit, including the U.K.’s shellfish sector and its pelagic fishing sector, their robust trading volumes this year show Scotland’s salmon-farmers have fully adapted the new situation. The lower value of their exports is at least in part due to shrinking prices for salmon globally. The Nasdaq Salmon Index, the weighted average of weekly reported sales prices and corresponding volumes in fresh Atlantic superior salmon, head-on gutted (HOG), as reported a panel of Norwegian salmon exporters and salmon producers with export licenses, showed the 12-week average prices for salmon have sunk 25.3 percent to an average of NOK 55.68 (USD 6.32, EUR 5.37) per kilo. Fish Pool Price Status Report, a similar index created by the Oslo Børs, lists the average price for three- to six-kilo farmed Atlantic salmon as NOK 55.55 (USD 6.30, EUR 5.36) this week, down 6.2 percent in the last month and 25.6 percent over the past 12 weeks.

Photo courtesy of Shoesmith Drones/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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