Scottish salmon sector calls for overhaul of export paperwork as delays, costs pile up

Published on
March 23, 2021

There is an urgent need for post-Brexit export paperwork to be simplified and for the Export Health Certificate (EHC) to be completely redesigned so that Scotland’s salmon producers can avoid further damaging delays in sending their products to European Union markets, according to the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO).

The sector has had to cope with significant and costly holdups since the Brexit transition period ended on 1 January this year and the full effects of the E.U.-United Kingdom separation came into effect, the trade body said.

Despite improvements since January – when it was taking many hours or even days to process seafood orders for the continent – orders are still being held up because of the extra paperwork for exports, SSPO said.

It now takes about two hours for each seafood load to be processed and given an EHC for transport to the E.U. and, in some case, this process is taking four hours or longer, the SSPO said, adding that these delays mean salmon is not arriving in France on time, and that this has been leading to lost orders, discounted sales, and disgruntled customers.

The EHC can run dozens of pages long for each order.

SSPO Chief Executive Tavish Scott has asked the U.K. government to look into this issue as a matter of urgency and he has also raised the issue with Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove on a recent call.

“Seafood exports are fundamentally important for both the Scottish and U.K. economies. Salmon is the U.K.’s number one food export. So, we need government to reduce the costs and complexity that our sector faces,” Scott said.

He confirmed that he had received a verbal assurance from Gove that the U.K. government would look to re-design, re-draw, and simplify the EHC.

The SSPO highlighted that one of the biggest problems with the certificate is that numerous boxes have to be crossed out by certifying officers, scoring out all products which the supplier is not exporting to the E.U.

This, it said, often leads to confusion and mistakes, causing delays both in the U.K. and at the E.U. border posts.

“I welcome the commitment that the U.K. government has given to initiate a system review of Export Health Certificates. They were never designed for perishable products like salmon and therefore never should have been the document we are forced to use as exporters,” Scott said. “Progress on this is vitally important for our salmon sector and the seafood industry.”

According to figures collated by the SSPO, Scotland’s salmon producers are spending GBP 200,000 (USD 278,255, EUR 233,569) a month on extra paperwork because of Brexit, and that this GBP 2.5 million (USD 3.5 million, EUR 2.9 million) annual bill will come on top of the delays, cancellations, and problems, which have already cost the sector millions of pounds in lost orders, lower prices, and cancelled harvests.

It has been estimated that through January 2021, Scotland’s salmon farmers incurred losses of at least GBP 11 million (USD 15.3 million, EUR 12.8 million) as a direct result of the changes brought about by Brexit. Furthermore, in January of this year, the sector experienced an immediate loss of sales equating to 1,500 metric tons (MT) of product.

Photo courtesy of Paul Cullen Photography/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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