Bruising time for the Scottish salmon as export sales of whole, fresh fish were down GBP 168 million.
In a statement, the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) writes that the worldwide Covid pandemic had a “significant and damaging effect” on exports of Scottish salmon in 2020, according to new figures released by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
The official export statistics show that 2020 exports of Scottish salmon fell by 23 per-cent to 72,155 tonnes, compared to 2019’s 94,315 tonnes.
Export sales of whole, fresh Scottish salmon were down GBP 168 million last year to GBP 451 million, from GBP 619 million the year before.
The impact of the pandemic, which shut food service outlets around the world and greatly restricted air transport, hit distant markets the hardest.
Scottish salmon sales were down 76 per-cent in value in China, and down 42 per-cent in value in the US.
As sales dropped in the more distant markets, Scotland’s salmon producers turned more to Europe. Exports of Scottish salmon to the EU, became more important last year, accounting for 69 per-cent of all global sales in volume (50,000 tonnes) and 64 per-cent in value (GBP 288 million) terms. An increase from 56 per-cent and 52 per-cent in 2019 respectively.
Chief Executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation Tavish Scott said producers in the trade group were confident exports would “revive as markets opened up and that 2021 would be a good year for the sector”. However, delay problems caused by Brexit was still a cause for concern.
“The last year has been a bruising time for the Scottish salmon sector, as these new figures show. Our producers have battled really hard to get salmon to their customers around the world, against really strong headwinds.
“It is to their credit that they have managed to get so much salmon to their global customers and the switch to EU trade was a good way of offsetting the difficulties experienced elsewhere,” he said.
Head of Markets at Scottish Sea Farms Celine Kimpflin said the first week of January, when Brexit’s new rules kicked in, had been an “utter disaster” for salmon exporters.
Scottish Sea Farms exports around 200 tonnes of salmon to the EU a week, but this has been reduced by as much as half at the moment.
“We knew it was going to be difficult but we didn’t expect it to be this difficult. I don’t think as a country we were that well prepared in terms of bureaucracy,” she said.
She added that an even better solution would be to invite EU officials to Scotland and show them how the salmon sector operates.
“We need to have a dialogue, work out how we can make the export process more streamlined, and give them confidence to import our product,” said Kimpflin.