Scottish salmon remains UK’s biggest food export despite ongoing post-Covid and Brexit challenges

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Scottish salmon is the UK’s biggest fresh food export but the sector is facing continued challenges following Covid and Brexit, new HMRC figures have shown.

International sales of Scottish salmon were valued at £280million in the first half of 2022, with France accounting for more than half of the total.
However, this was down by around 8 per cent compared to 2021, across both EU sales and non-EU sales.

Trade body Salmon Scotland said this has been offset by increased demand at home, with the impact of the pandemic resulting in a shift with some salmon destined for international markets instead sent to UK retailers.

Separate data estimates that sales of salmon in UK shops soared to £1.1billion in 2021 as British consumers increased their consumption of the protein-rich product, making it the country’s most popular fish.

The farm-raised salmon sector delivers 2,500 direct jobs in Scotland, supporting more than 3,600 domestic suppliers, and a total of more than 12,000 jobs dependent on the sector.

But farmers and producers have faced a number of challenges in recent months, including bad weather at the start of the year affecting harvests, post-Brexit and pandemic-induced labour shortages, cross-Channel delays and a cumbersome regulation system in Scotland that needs urgent reform and streamlining.

Salmon Scotland has called on the Scottish and UK governments to take action to support the sector, ensuring it can continue to grow and provide more local jobs in Scotland and more revenue for the UK economy.

This includes:

  • A streamlined regulatory system in Scotland along the lines of the Norwegian model.
  • Measures to address planning hold-ups for new salmon farms.
  • A change to key worker definitions to tackle the post-Brexit labour shortage.
  • A solution to cross-Channel delays and avoidance of any trade war with Europe.

“There is strong international demand for our unrivalled farm-raised Scottish salmon, making it the UK’s biggest and most important food export. These export sales deliver a massive economic benefit for rural and coastal communities in Scotland, supporting thousands of highly-skilled, well-paid jobs, and helping local areas to thrive, while delivering millions for the UK economy,” Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said.

“But, like many sectors, we face continued challenges following Covid and Brexit. With Scottish Government reform of the cluttered regulatory landscape, and UK Government reform of labour rules and the cross-Channel set-up, we will be able to deliver further sustainable growth to support our most isolated communities,” Scott added.