Brexit costs Scottish salmon £100 million in lost revenue each year

In advance of the UK's forthcoming general election, trade body Salmon Scotland warns politicians that Brexit-related "red tape" continues to prevent Scotland's aquaculture sector from fulfilling its potential.
Tavish Scott, CEO of Salmon Scotland.

Tavish Scott, CEO of Salmon Scotland.

Photo: Salmon Scotland

Brexit has led to a significant decline in Scottish salmon exports to the EU, costing Scotland up to £100 million annually in lost revenue.

That's the message given to Scottish politicians by Salmon Scotland CEO Tavish Scott, in a recent meeting with Scotland's Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee, as part of their inquiry into the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) – which is up for review after the UK General Election expected later this year.

Before the UK's departure from the EU in January 2020, Scottish salmon exports to the EU totalled more than 53,000 tonnes in 2019, but this number dropped to 44,000 tonnes by 2023.

Despite a global demand that increased prices and slightly cushioned the financial impact, the sector still faced a substantial net loss, with potential earnings that could have exceeded £430 million if the 2019 export volumes were maintained.

Trade body Salmon Scotland attributes the decline in exports to increased bureaucracy and costs arising from Brexit. However, the overall international sales of Scottish salmon saw a marginal increase in 2023, thanks to significant growth in markets outside the EU, particularly in Asia and the US.

Despite these challenges, opportunities for economic growth and job creation in Scotland remain if smoother trade flows and new markets can be established, the trade body argues.

E-certification, border controls, and veterinary agreements among the issues raised

In his meeting with the MSPs at the end of March, Scott highlighted the need for urgent action by the next UK government, including addressing the lack of an e-certification scheme for export health certificates, the upcoming implementation of Border Control Posts with new import requirements, and the potential benefits of a veterinary agreement between the UK and EU to streamline supply chains.

“Scottish salmon is the UK’s largest food export and a major contributor to our economy, with demand rising at home and abroad. And despite soaring sales to Asia and the US, the EU is still the most significant region for our exports, accounting for more than 60 per cent of international sales," Scott said in a press statement.

“The world-renowned quality of nutritious low-carbon Scottish salmon means that we could significantly grow markets such as Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. But Brexit red tape continues to hold back the potential of Scottish exports, despite the hard work and investment put in by farmers to address the issues," Scott said.

“We need the next UK government – whatever formation it is – to ease the burden on exporters so that sectors like ours can sell more Scottish produce, delivering economic growth and creating jobs here at home," Scott added.

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