Scottish seafood exporters hit by ‘perfect storm’ of Brexit disruption
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A 'centuries old' fish trade into Europe will be on its knees if problems with trading under new Brexit rules are not addressed.
The claim by the chief executive of Seafood Scotland says the weakened trade with the rest of Europe may mean fish going to landfill and fishermen without work.
Donna Fordyce of Seafood Scotland said the issue needs to be remedied now before a collapse of the industry that supports the Scottish economy.
Ms Fordyce said: “The last week has really delivered what was expected – new bureaucratic non-tariff barriers, and no one body with the tools to be able to fix the situation.
“It’s a perfect storm for Scottish seafood exporters. Weakened by Covid-19, and the closure of the French border before Christmas, the end of the Brexit transition period has unleashed layer upon layer of administrative problems, resulting in queues, border refusals and utter confusion."
She continued: “IT problems in France meant consignments were diverted from Boulogne sur Mer to Dunkirk, which was unprepared as it wasn’t supposed to be at the export frontline.
"There have also been HMRC IT issues on the UK side that need to resolved ASAP regarding certification.
"A lack of knowledge and understanding of the required paperwork means some companies are ill prepared for the new checks, which are taking far longer because of the mistakes being uncovered.
"When the systems settle down, checks should be carried out on samples from each load but now entire consignments are having to be checked to satisfy requirements."
She said the sea food market is different to those exporting other non-perishable good.
“These businesses are not transporting toilet rolls or widgets," she said. They are exporting the highest quality, perishable seafood which has a finite window to get to markets in peak condition.
"If the window closes these consignments go to landfill.The knock-on effect of export falling over is that the fishing fleet will have little reason to go out.
"In a very short time we could see the destruction of a centuries old market which contributes significantly to the Scottish economy.
“The problem is no longer hypothetical. It is happening right now.We are working with industry, Government, and other bodies to try to mop up the mess to allow trade to flow again.
"We are doing all we can to help companies get the paperwork done. It will take time to fix – which we know many seafood companies can’t afford right now.”
Read more about the sea food industry here.