Scottish salmon in the Yemen? Seafood Scotland in talks with Edinburgh Airport on direct flights to the Middle East

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Scotland eyes Middle East seafood market in post-Brexit push.

According to a report in Arabian Business, Seafood Scotland – a government trade promotion body – is in talks with Edinburgh airport to leverage growing freight links between Scotland and Gulf countries, such as the UAE and Qatar.

The news comes as Scottish producers are looking to significantly diversify their exports from EU markets, into regions such as the Middle East as part of a post-Brexit growth drive.

According to UK government figures, in 2020, Scottish seafood exports to the UAE totalled £3.40 million, down from £6.21m in pre-pandemic 2019.

Heathrow
Currently almost all salmon flown from Scotland is trucked to England and then flown out via Heathrow – more than 50,000 tonnes of fresh salmon a year, making fish by far the airport’s biggest export by weight.

Plans to flow some of the fish from Edinburgh would slash transport times and improve the quality of the product that reaches the Middle East.

“There is a great opportunity to grow links and improve trading opportunities to export seafood to the Gulf. The regional demand is there and the local chefs are interested in Scottish seafood. We just need to get the product out there,” Clare MacDougall, head of trade marketing North America, UK and Middle East, Seafood Scotland, told Arabian Business.

Brexit opportunities
“Brexit has had a huge impact on the seafood industry. Scotland exports 80 per cent of its farmed and caught seafood – the majority was going to Europe, so it has been a difficult time for the sector because fish is so perishable and it has become more complex to export any product to the EU since Brexit.”

“The UAE, in particular, is a growing market and we are focused on it, so our export figures will grow. Brexit has contributed to a direct increased output to the UAE,” MacDougall added.

Seafood Scotland, which has a dedicated Dubai-based office, is working directly with UAE companies to promote the nutritional and quality benefits of Scottish seafood. The trade body is also conducting UAE market research on local eating habits and sharing the data with its members.

Clare MacDougall, head of trade marketing North America, UK and Middle East, Seafood Scotland.