Scottish salmon producers urge government to address Brexit border disruptions
Scotland’s salmon sector is calling on the U.K. government to help resolve delays to exports destined for E.U. markets following the introduction of the new border rules established in a Christmas Eve agreement, with implementation beginning on 1 January, 2021.
According to the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), dozens of truckloads of fish have failed to leave Scotland on time since the full Brexit regulations came into force, with confusion over paperwork, the extra documentation needed, and IT problems all contributing to the delays and hold-ups.
Alongside other Scottish food and drink bodies, including Scotland Food & Drink and Seafood Scotland, the SSPO wrote to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson in November last year appealing for a gradual implementation period for the new rules, but without success.
They now believe the Brexit deal, which was agreed by the United Kingdom and the E.U. just a week before the new regulations came into effect, gave businesses no time to prepare for the changes necessary to get produce to continental Europe.
“Had a deal been concluded even a couple of months ago, that would have given our producers and hauliers the time to test out the new systems, trial the paperwork, and get everything in place,” SSPO Chief Executive Tavish Scott said. “As it is, we have had lorry loads of salmon stuck in Scotland waiting for the right paperwork, [and] we have seen delays in France because of IT problems in bringing in whole new systems and confusion everywhere. Our members are resourceful and have been trying everything they can to get fish to customers in Europe, including new routes, but every delay forces the price of our product down and hands the initiative to our international competitors.”
Seafood Scotland Chief Executive Donna Fordyce said despite producers’ efforts to work through all the extra red tape, it has proved an “almost impossible task,” given the lack of preparation time.
“The U.K. government has to realize the enormous difficulties that have been placed in the way of exporters simply because there wasn’t a workable system in place by the end of Brexit transition, despite numerous warnings that there would be issues,” she said.
Scotland Food and Drink Chief Executive James Withers said that a six-month bedding-in period would have allowed exporters and the E.U. to adjust to the new demands, but instead they have had to cope with “a cliff edge,” with everything changing on 1 January.
“We warned this would lead to problems but our appeals for the grace period were ignored,” he said.
In the absence of that “grace period,” the export leaders want the U.K. government to work with French authorities to ensure a “light-touch” approach to the paperwork until everything settles down.
They want both the U.K. and Scottish governments to work closely with distributors and logistics firms, local authorities, and the agencies dealing with the new paperwork to ensure adequate resources are in place.
The SSPO said the U.K. government is currently waiving many of the border checks that should be in place for imports to the country, and that ministers should now work with their French counterparts to get a similar approach adopted for exports to the E.U.
As part of the new Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the United Kingdom and the E.U., there are zero tariffs on goods traded between the two parties, but in the case of seafood, new export health certificates, catch certificates and other labeling requirements have been implemented.
Other seafood groups in the U.K. have also criticized the agreement, including the Cornish Fish Producers’ Organisation
Photo courtesy of Seafood Scotland