SSPO: Costly trade barriers with EU could strangle salmon sector

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Trade organisation warns of 100,000 certificates a year with an estimated cost of up to GBP 9 million a year. Furthermore, 2 per cent tariffs on fresh fish, rising to 13 per cent for smoked salmon also may be on the cards.

High costs and red tape loom post-Brexit which could undercut Britain’s biggest food export, say the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation in a press release.

The UK officially left the European Union after 47 years of membership on the 31st of January. It is still in a transition period which is due to last until 31 December 2020.

During this period, the UK will remain in both the EU customs union and single market – and will have frictionless trade with the EU until it negotiates a UK/EU trade deal.

The imposition of EHCs will not be confirmed definitively until later in the year, possibly not even until near the end of the transition period in December 2020 but officials have told the SSPO to “prepare” for EHCs with the EU.

However SSPO chief executive Julie Hesketh-Laird outlined that the Scottish salmon industry is preparing for trade barriers after the transition period. These may include an export health certificate for every consignment (signed by a vet or health official) and 2 per cent tariffs on fresh fish rising to 13% for smoked salmon.

Hesketh-Laird said that 100,000 certificates a year could cost up to GBP 9 million a year.

According to hauliers DFDS, about 300 orders of Scottish salmon are sent to Europe each day from the main transport hub at Larkhall in about 35 lorry loads.

The annual £8.7 million figure is based on 300 orders per day, each one needing an EHC at a cost of £80 per certificate.

“This will need extra staff at the main haulage distribution hub, the DFDS base at Larkhall in South Lanarkshire, and delays and hold-ups in the dispatch of salmon to the continent,” the SSPO wrote.

Hesketh-Laird told the BBC that that certificates could place “huge unnecessary financial and bureaucratic burdens on our sector, potentially undermining what is one of the UK’s biggest modern export success stories”.

She said: “Scottish salmon is a fantastic product, but we compete with other jurisdictions from Faroes to Norway to Ireland.

“Any extra cost will eventually be borne by the consumer, so keeping the bureaucracy and administrative costs to a minimum is really important.

“But it’s non-tariff barriers that can really strangle a sector – so (along) with delays at the border, additional paperwork, the fact that fish won’t go out in as fresh a state as we want it to, these certification issues will hugely snarl-up a successful Scottish business.”

Hesketh-Laird said the organisation was appealing to the UK government to make it a priority in negotiations with the EU.

“We want both sides to commit to allow seafood trade to the EU to continue as it now, without the imposition of any new tariff or non-tariff barriers and we want UK ministers to call for this in negotiations,” she added.