More help is needed to resolve delays post-Brexit, say SSPO.
The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation writes that they have called on the UK Government to help resolve the delays to EU exports which are causing significant problems for the sector.
This is combined with other leaders of Scotland’s main seafood and food trade bodies.
Confusion over paperwork, the extra documentation needed and IT problems have all contributed to delays and hold-ups.
Now the leaders of Scotland’s salmon sector – which produces the UK’s biggest food export – have come together with their seafood and food and drink counterparts to appeal for a ‘lighter touch’ approach to help exports get through to the main European markets more smoothly.
The leaders of all of Scotland’s main food and drink bodies – including Scotland Food and Drink (SF&D), the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) and Seafood Scotland (SS) – wrote to the Prime Minister in November appealing for a gradual implementation period for the new rules, but without success.
No time to prepare
They now believe the Brexit deal, which was agreed by the UK and the EU on Christmas Eve: just a week before the new regulations came into effect, gave businesses no time to prepare for the huge changes necessary to get produce to the continent.
For example, one of the main changes of Brexit has been the requirement for all produce of animal origin which is exported to the EU to carry an Export Health Certificate (EHC). These can only be certified by a vet or an authorised certification officer, usually an environmental health officer. The SSPO said that hubs have been set up to co-ordinate the production, allocation and certification of EHCs but “the sheer volume of extra paperwork needed has meant delays at these hubs. This has resulted in lorry loads of seafood being dispatched late.”
SSPO Chief Executive Tavish Scott said: “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.
“As it is, we have had lorry loads of salmon stuck in Scotland, waiting for the right paperwork, 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.”
In the absence of that ‘grace period’, the export leaders want the UK Government to work with the French authorities to ensure a ‘light-touch’ approach to the paperwork until everything settles down.
The SSPO and the groups said that they want both the UK and Scottish Government to liaise closely with hauliers, local authorities and the agencies dealing with the new paperwork to ensure adequate resources are in place.
“The UK Government is waiving many of the border checks which should be in place for imports to the UK. Ministers should now work with their French counterparts to get a similar approach adopted for exports to the EU,” it wrote.